The water tower to the northwest of Sycamores was probably built about 1900-1905 by Rose Hollingsworth when she owned the house.  I surmise that in the lower stone room there was a steam engine that pumped water from an 18ft deep hand-dug well located about 100 ft to the south west of the water tower.  The water was pumped into a cylindrical  brick tank (open at the top, concrete lined) located behind the green shingled upper portion of the tank.  This would have provided running water to the first floor of Sycamores at a time when a public water supply did not exist.

I found a large (3’x5’x8’) open copper tank in the attic of Sycamores. Water from the water tower could have been pumped into this tank which would have given running water to all three floors of Sycamores.  The two tanks, the concrete cylinder and the copper one, are not insulated, so could not have been used in the winter.  Rose Hollingsworth may have used Sycamores simply as her summer residence (she lived in Boston).

The water tower deteriorated during the last century; holes appeared in the roof, the door fell in, the hardware (a hand-forged latch) was stolen, but the building had a fascination unlike nearby Sycamores.  The upper wood part has openings that make it appear to be a dovecote, but no self-respecting dove or any other bird ever lived behind those openings.  I found no trace of inhabitants except for a number of skeletons of animals that had fallen into the concrete tank and could not escape.  Many theories were proposed for the  purpose of the tower by those who had not inspected it closely.  My favorite envisioned Minutemen behind those holes with rifles pointed at the indians! 

A long-time South Hadley resident, Russell Adams, contributed the funds for the renovation of the water tower in memory of his parents and brother.  Adaline Potter, MHC ’31, professor of English at the College was a resident of Sycamores in 1929-30. She wrote a small book about her life there entitled Sycamores, Reflections on the House.  I set the book on my computer and scanned in a number of Adaline’s photos of her classmates as well as a photograph of the water tower in the winter.  This photo shows a balustrade above the stone part of the tower.  Scaling this I drew up plans for its reconstruction. I also made replacement openings for the “dovecotes.”  Most of the repair work was done by Jason Hendrix under the direction of Joe Marois.  The building was painted by me and Tom Hazen.  I found an old hand-forged latch on a door in the basement of Sycamores to replace the missing one.

Ken Williamson


Weekend, May, 2014

A Brief History

Montagues at Sycamores

Joseph Brodsky

Brodsky Exhibit

The Sycamores Committee

Outline History of Sycamores and Rawson House
Mount Holyoke Alumnae of 

Sycamores Restoration 

Parlor Wallpaper

Wallpaper and Paint

Concealed Shoes

Rawson House

Water Tower
HABS, Historic American
Buildings Survey

Reflections from the House

Letter from Sycamores, 1832

Bark of the Tree