Q: I would like to know more about the water tower in the city of Tulare that looks like a giant glass of milk with a straw sticking out of the top.
Ray Grove, Fresno
A: The water tower at 161 O St. in the city of Tulare was transformed to resemble a very tall glass of milk over the space of one week in 2006, according to Diane Friend of College Station, Texas, who was Tulare’s marketing director at the time.
The milk glass design represents Tulare’s strong ties to the dairy industry, said Friend, who joked the city “has more cows than people.” Milk production by Tulare County cows totaled $1.7 billion in 2015, according to the Tulare County Farm Bureau.
Friend said the city was set to refurbish the water tower in 2006, so the chamber of commerce and members of the Tulare Cultural Arts Foundation joined forces to plan the milk glass remodel. Funding for the nearly $40,000 project came from the California Dairy Council, local dairy owners, the Tulare Foundation, the city of Tulare, the Chamber of Commerce and donations at fundraising events.
The city painted the “milk” white and the top of the “glass” a light blue. H & H Custom Welding of Tulare built the metal “straw.” Artist Colleen Chronister, who formerly lived in the Valley and now resides in Oregon, added detail to the glass of milk. She painted bubbles in the milk and condensation drips down the glass, which required spending hours at a time for at least a week in a basket suspended from a large crane, Friend said. Chronister also painted letters spelling out “Tulare. We’ve Got It” on the tower.
Tulare’s very first water tower was built by David Washington Madden in the late 1800s. Madden opened a hotel on Tulare Avenue in 1877 but the business failed. He later opened the Pacific Hotel on the northeast corner of Tulare Avenue and Front Street.
According to a history by the Tulare Historical Museum, “To provide water for his hotel, (Madden) bored a well and built a water tower on his property. When neighboring businesses asked him to supply them with water, he ran pipe from his tower to bring running water to the rapidly growing railroad town.”
The “milk glass” water tower was built in 1913 by the Des Moines Bridge and Iron Co.
A massive fire in 1886 destroyed the Pacific Hotel. While that ended Madden’s hotel venture, he continued in the water business. He drilled four 400-foot wells and built two “massive” wooden water towers, each with a 40,000-gallon capacity.
By comparison, the modern “milk glass” water tower holds 120,000 gallons, according to Tim Doyle, water utility manager for Tulare. The current water tower was built in 1913 by the Des Moines Bridge and Iron Co. It stands 141 feet tall with a 26-foot diameter, Doyle said.
Q: East of Pine Flat Lake there is a spot along the Kings River known as Rodgers Crossing. What is the historical significance of that spot and how did it get the name?
Scott Haugland, Sanger
A: According to a 2003 report by the Bureau of Reclamation, “The Rodgers Crossing area is within the traditional territory of the Wobonuch people, Numic-speaking relatives of the North Fork Mono along the San Joaquin River.”
The area was studied as a possible reservoir site in the 1980s but the plan was suspended in 1986.
Rodgers Crossing, Rogers Ridge and Rodgers Creek are all named for John Atwood Rodgers, according to the “Fresno Community Book” written by Ben Walker in 1946.
Walker wrote that Rodgers was “one of the outstanding agriculturalists and cattlemen” in California who “contributed largely to the development” of Fresno County.
Rodgers was born in Maryland in 1860. He came to California in 1877 and later “studied telegraphy” at Heald Business College in San Francisco. He farmed and hauled grain in the Modesto area before coming to Fresno County.
Rodgers began a cattle ranch in the Reedley area that grew into a “very large cattle business” in partnership with Peter E. Fink Sr. At the peak of the business they “owned or leased approximately 65,000 acres of land and ran several thousand head of cattle,” Walker wrote. Rodgers’ Crown Valley Ranch around North Fork was his summer home until 1916.
“On the Balsh (sic) Camp Road up Kings River is a sign pointing to Rodgers Ridge Trail, which is a trail Mr. Rodgers made in the early days to bring cattle out of Crown Valley,” Walker wrote. “Rodgers Peak in Crown Valley is also named after him.”
Rodgers also planted a 160-acre “choice vineyard” between Sanger and Reedley, Walker wrote. Rodgers sold the vineyard in 1917 and moved his family to Fresno, where he “acquired a large amount of real estate in the city.”
“Mr. Rodgers was a keen businessman,” Walker wrote. “Modest and unassuming, he impressed all with whom he came in contact with the strength of his character. A man of charitable nature, he performed many acts of kindness of which few people were aware.”
Rodgers married Loretta Jarvis in 1914. He died in 1943 and was survived by his wife, son John Atwood Rodgers II, daughter Geraldine A. Furst, and grandchildren John Atwood Rodgers III and Sandra Jean Rodgers.
More about: After the answer to a question about the Drum Valley school appeared in the Dec. 11 column, Jonathan Waltmire of the Tulare County Library wrote to share more information about the historic school.
“According to one of our books, ‘Tulare County Schools 100 Years,’ Fair View School began in 1881, became Drum Valley in 1896 or 1897 and was eventually annexed to Ash Springs in 1946,” Waltmire wrote. An 1892 Tulare County Atlas gives the original spelling of the valley as Drumm.
Articles in the library’s newspaper collection – including the Alta Advance, Dinuba Sentinel, Daily Visalia Delta, Visalia Daily Times and Visalia Times-Delta – explain the 1897 name change to Drum Valley, the sale of school bonds for the new school in 1914, trouble selling later bonds and the annexation.
Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.