Neil Tower used to supply water to James Neil’s large farm when it was built in 1910. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Neil Tower used to supply water to James Neil’s large farm when it was built in 1910. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Neil Tower to go on Oak Harbor historic register

The Oak Harbor Preservation Commission has chosen the Neil Tower as its first project.

Neil Tower, a water tower next to the historic Roller Barn in Oak Harbor, has been selected to be the city’s first listing on its historic register.

The Oak Harbor Historic Preservation Commission decided to follow staff’s recommendations to designate the 50-foot structure as its first project, which will allow it to be listed on the historic register in the future.

“It’s a unique architectural feature of North Whidbey,” said Oak Harbor Historic Preservation Commissioner Rick Castellano. He is also the executive director of the Island County Historical Museum in Coupeville.

“I remember driving by that ever since I was a little kid, when there were just fields and cows out there instead of shopping centers and all that good stuff,” he added.

Neil Tower was built in 1910 and supplied water to James Neil’s large farm, according to the city’s nomination form.

It also ran a generator to provide electricity to the farm, and held 1,000-2,000 gallons of water. The Neil family grew peas, hay, grain for logging horses, and raised cattle at the farm, according to a National Register of Historic Places registration form prepared by Helen Chatfield-Weeks in 1992.

The Oak Harbor Lions Club raised money to move the tower by crane in November 1985, according to a Whidbey News-Times story at the time. It moved about less than 100 feet from its former location when the adjacent apartment buildings were under construction.

The Neil Water Tower Preservation Association, a group of local citizens, applied for a grant from the 1989 Washington Centennial Commission to restore the tower, according to another News-Times story.

There is a plaque on the tower commemorating the centennial.

This year, the city completed more restoration work that included paint, siding and repairs to the roof and windows. According to the 2019-20 biennial budget, the project cost $50,000 and included $5,000 from donations.

The city’s historic preservation commission is relatively new, and Castellano said he hopes more can be done in the future to identify historic places.

“There are houses and buildings in town that a lot of people would look at and say they are not historic, but there are some pretty remarkable mid-century modern buildings,” Castellano said.

“A lot of them have gone to better places because of development, but there’s still a lot worth preserving if we can.”

The 50-foot tall Neil Tower was selected by the Oak Harbor Preservation Commission as its first project. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

The 50-foot tall Neil Tower was selected by the Oak Harbor Preservation Commission as its first project. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

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