It stood above the campus like a sentry, as if to guard against drought and keep watch for welcome rain clouds on the horizon. In my recollection it was always blue, though not Emory blue–more like the blue of a robin’s egg.
It should have been painted white, with trompe l’oeil stippling to mimic the look of a golf ball. Because after I heard someone refer to it as “the Bobby Jones Memorial,” I could never again see it as anything but a golf ball on a tee. (Bobby Jones was the Emory alumnus who graduated from the law school in 1929 and went on, the following year, to become the only person ever to win the grand slam of golf. Some of his papers — and a bronzed golf shoe! — are held in the Stuart A Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.)
The tower was installed in 1933 and made it into the pages of the November-December 1933 Emory Alumnus.
By 2007 the water tower, in terms that Bobby Jones would have been familiar with, had become a waterless hazard. It had not held water since the 1980s, and improvements to maintain its structural integrity were estimated to cost several hundred thousands of dollars. While realigning Eagle Row to make way for new residence halls, the university dismantled the tower and recycled its steel.
I learned recently that Mathew Pinson, senior director of development in the Candler School of Theology, has a personal connection to that bygone tower. His great-grandfather, Bryan M. Blackburn, was employed by R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company in Newnan, Georgia, when he patented the design of the hundred-thousand-gallon tank. Mathew shared images of the design that was approved by the US Patent Office on February 20, 1934 (after the tower had been installed at Emory). The patent and the catalogue from the R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company are in the Pinson family archives.
Great-grandfather Blackburn was a member of the twenty-fifth graduating class of Georgia Tech and began developing this design while he was a student.
Great thanks to Mathew for sharing these design images and the information about his ancestor.
Curiously, Emory University was not the only Emory with a water tower that resembled a golf ball on tee. Check out the one from Emory, Texas, below. I believe ours was built first–and unfortunately had to be removed first.