Walterboro, South Carolina, is a small city of about 5,000 people, 50 miles or so west of Charleston. They have an annual Rice Festival, an Army Airfield with a Tuskegee Airmen Memorial, and an 800-acre wildlife sanctuary with braided-creek hardwood flats and a bottomland swamp. The skyline, though, is dominated by the Walterboro Water Tower: a standpipe that is not only the jewel of the city’s water supply system, but which also once held lockups for the county jail.
It took a Boston engineering firm a couple of years to build the tower, which was completed in 1915, and it employs what’s known as a standpipe system. 100,000 gallons of water is stored in the top and, using plain old gravity to pressurize the water up above (with a little help from hydro pumps), the water is pushed down through the pipe system and out to homes and businesses. Constructed of reinforced concrete and standing 133 feet tall, the Walterboro Water Tower is one of only three standpipe systems in the state of South Carolina.
There is a small door at the base of the tower that leads to a space that was once used as a county jail. Long since out of penal service, there are six small cells, and just a couple of windows. Some say that these cells later served as sleeping quarters for stranded travelers who needed a place to stay for a night. Not exactly five-star accommodations – or really any-star accommodations. Unless you count the star on the sheriff’s jacket that may have locked you up back in the day.
Know Before You Go
Visible from anywhere in town, the water tower sits just off No. Memorial Ave at E. Washington St