Waco man recalls climb up landmark water tower that’s now coming down

WACO, Texas (KWTX) The year was 1967 and the Owen Lane water tower in Waco was nearing completion.

(Photo courtesy of Otto Caldwell)

Local photography enthusiast Otto Caldwell was 29.

He saw the looming structure as a challenge.

“I had already climbed all the towers in the Waco area and when I saw this going up I thought, well that's going to be next." Caldwell said.

Caldwell says he wasn't really afraid during the climb but after reaching the top he realized the ladder he was on wasn't exactly stable.

"I got to the top and saw how rickety the ladder was and realized it was just tack welded at the top. I remember thinking I hope I make it back down alive."

Once he made it to the top he knew he couldn't resist the urge to take a picture from inside the structure that would soon be holding 1.5 million gallons of water for the residents of a growing city.

Now 79, Caldwell admits that climbing the tower wasn't the smartest thing he's ever done and he is fortunate to have survived the climb back down. Still having the picture, the story and the memories, he says it was worth it.

But he won't do it again.

"I'm done. My climbing days are over." Caldwell said.

Crews are beginning work on the demolition of the Owen Lane Water tower along State Highway 6 across from Providence Health Center in Waco.

The tower at the intersection of Owen Lane and Bowden Street will be replaced with a 2-million-gallon composite water tower that will serve Waco and parts of McLennan County.

The replacement is part of a 10-year capital improvement program called Building Waco that includes almost $300 million in water and wastewater projects.

Caldwell is sad to see it go but realizes improvements must be made.

"It's progress" he said.