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Historical Water Towers

A handsome wood-framed water tower was one of the first structures built for the University Farm, which would grow over the decades into UC Davis. It stood on the present-day location of Shields Library. North Hall, the original dormitory, is visible just to the left of the tower. University Archives Photographs, AR-013
Binder cover reading "Water Tower Davisville"
Water tower specifications, 1908
Cover (detail) of a 35-page contract detailing the construction of the original water tower at “Davisville,” which had officially changed its name to Davis the year before. Davis Campus History Collection, AR-095

View west of University Farm
View west of the early campus from the water tower, 1916
The original water tower was a main attraction at early Picnic Days, as hundreds of visitors climbed the exterior staircase for panoramic views of campus. This snapshot looking west, which includes the dairy barn (today’s Silo) on the left and the horse barn on the right, was taken by student Harry Hazen. Harry Hazen Scrapbook, MC-275
View north of University Farm
View north of the early campus from the water tower, 1916
This snapshot shows the Quad, including the prominent Classroom Building, now demolished. Harry Hazen Scrapbook, MC-275
Aerial photograph of UC Davis campus showing Quad and early buildings
Aerial photograph of early campus during Picnic Day, 1923
This aerial photograph shows the location of the original water tower in the lower right of the image. University Archives Photographs, AR-013

Group of people standing around a reservoir with two water towers in the background
New water tower visible during Tank Rush, 1925
A new steel-framed water tower erected in 1922 could store nearly four times as much water as its predecessor. The two towers stood together for six years until the original tower was dismantled in 1928. El Rodeo yearbook, 1925
Steel water tower with CA symbol
Water tower viewed from the sunken garden, 1947
Under cover of night in 1926, students climbed the water tower with a paint can and a stencil cut out of a mattress box, and emblazoned the tank with its first Block “CA,” the long-cherished logo of the California Aggies. University Archives Photographs, AR-013

Aerial photograph of Shields Library with the water tower behind it
Aerial photograph of the library, looking south, 1950
The mid-century water tower was located behind the original section of the Shields Library, close to the center of campus.  University Archives Photographs, AR-013

A quotation
Two students walk down a path on the Quad and the water tower peeks over the library
Students on the Quad, 1950s
The mid-century tower peeks over the library in a view from the present location of Memorial Union. The tower was first illuminated at night in 1928, often as a signal that the Aggies had won an away game.  Cal Aggie Alumni Association Collection, AR-072
Page from a yearbook with a water tower being dismantled behind the text
El Rodeo, UC Davis yearbook, 1961
Student editor Evelyn Trevethan closed the 1961 yearbook with an image of the mid-century water tower being dismantled, which she offered as a metaphor for the loss of tradition in campus life. She writes: “The tower symbolized the Aggie Spirit, which began on the University Farm and included significant traditions–the Honor Spirit, pride in our agricultural background, and considered individualism.”