Photo From National Register Nomination
COTTER WATER TOWER, COTTER, BAXTER COUNTY
The Cotter Water Tower is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its associations with the activities of the Public Works Administration (PWA) in Cotter, Arkansas, in the 1930s. The Cotter Water Tower is also being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C as it is the only example of a 1930s-era PWA water tower in Cotter. The Cotter Water Tower is being submitted to the National Register of Historic Places under the multiple-property listing “An Ambition to Be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933-1943.”
Bluff dwellers and Native American tribes originally inhabited the mountainous terrain that would become the setting for Cotter, Arkansas. The following years brought forth white settlers, who were looking to benefit from the area’s natural resources. In 1819, an ethnographer from New York, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft arrived at the location, interested in the geography and minerals of the Ozark region. Based on his exploration, in 1853, he published a book, Scenes and Adventures in the Semi-Alpine Regions of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas. Forty years after Schoolcraft’s visit, Herbert Hoover surveyed the area with a friend geologist. Then in the late 1800s, the discovery of Zinc, nearby in Marion County, resulted in a mining boom, bringing in more people from out of town. By 1902, more than twenty mining companies had formed in Baxter County, with most of the business occurring in the “tent city” that would later become Cotter.
The success of the mines attracted the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. In 1902, the company decided that the White River Line division would meet the Missouri Pacific Line at a town that was to be named after the company’s manager, William Cotter. In 1904, Cotter was incorporated with a population of 600. Cotter’s growth in the early twentieth century depended upon the railroad, as the majority of the town residents were railroad employees.
By the 1930s, an improved transportation system in Cotter was necessary to accommodate the growing town. Although the railroad permitted passenger trains, automobile access through the town was limited. Before white settlement, there were neither roads nor ferries. The first roads were built in the mid-nineteenth century. However, they were reported to be in terrible condition. In 1910, the automobile business was introduced to Cotter, but shortly afterwards the business was abandoned due to the rough terrain. And even though the town had established several ferries by the 1930s, the height of the river surge often forced travelers to drive an extra 100 miles north to the bridge at Branson, Missouri, in order to cross the river.
While automobile access was limited in Cotter, the town’s central location made it a desirable transportation hub. Steamboats would travel up and down the White River, moving freight—ore and timber, landing at Cotter. Cotter was also an important stop as part of the Missouri Pacific Railroad line. In addition, Cotter offered outdoor leisure activities with its central location in the Ozarks and among the White and North Fork Rivers.
In June of 1930, the state authorized the construction of the Arkansas portion of the new federal highway, which connected Maysville, Kentucky, to El Paso, Texas, and passed through Cotter. US Highway 62 became an important road, especially for Arkansas, as it was the first corridor that permitted passage from the northwestern part of the state to the northeastern part of the state. The introduction of US Highway 62 opened a new access to the town and stirred growth in the community. It was believed that Cotter would become a major metropolis for northern Arkansas and a gateway between Batesville, Arkansas and Branson, Missouri. In the same year, the transportation advanced a step further, when the state approved the construction of a new bridge over the White River. This new bridge, named the Ruthven Bridge, remains the only example of a rainbow arch reinforced concrete bridge in the state.
A few years later, along US 62, the Public Works Administration began construction on the Cotter Water Tower. According to the Sanborn insurance maps there were no water facilities prior to the construction of the water tower in 1935. There was a spring in Cotter that was the city’s primary source of drinking water. Rex Bayless, the former mayor of Cotter, remembered buying a barrel of water from the spring at the cost of 25 cents per barrel. The only other sources of drinking water were two wells, and often people would drink water off the roof of houses.
Since the nineteenth century, research for the planning of water conservation and water use received nationwide attention. There had been an extensive study on water resources, which was accelerated by the Depression. In 1935, at the Arkansas State Planning Board meeting, the members addressed plans for conserving the state’s natural resources. They delegated a large portion of this responsibility to the Public Works Administration (PWA). The newly formed PWA was created out of the New Deal to provide work for the unemployed during the Depression. The PWA conducted an intensive survey and listed an inventory of projects in the state that were necessary to improve the general public welfare. In this inventory they noted 199 waterworks projects, the total cost of which was an estimated 8 million dollars. They defined the waterworks projects as those that provided or improved water supply such as reservoirs, water mains, water infiltration plants, wells, dams, and primary water sources.
By the time that the PWA conducted this survey, the construction of the Cotter Water Tower was completed. The contract for the construction of Cotter Water Tower was signed in 1933. An estimate of $57,000 was the projected cost of the project. The town received over $68,000 in funding from the PWA. By May 31, 1935, the project was finished.
A description of Cotter in the mid 1930s in the Baxter County Chronicles gives Cotter credit for being the largest town in Baxter County “with a population of 1,200, it had surfaced streets, twenty-four hour electric service, and one of the best municipal water plants in North Arkansas.” 
Over half a century later, the water tower continues to serve the Cotter community known as the “Trout Capitol, USA.”
The Cotter Water Tower is not only a reminder of the PWA’s aid in the community, but also is symbolic of the community’s growth and prosperity in the 1930s, despite the hardships of the Depression.
 Baxter County Chronicles 2005, Bill Dwayne Blevins ed. (Mountain Home Arkansas: Tumbling Shoals Publishing Company, 2005), 1.
 “Cotter Historical Briefs,” www.cotterar.com /(accessed August 7, 2006).
 Information on Cotter in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
Lawry, B.J., Cotter, Arkansas, The story of a small town, ( Cotter, AR: Ozark Newsletters, 1997),8.
 Arkansas Reflections of Our Past Baxter and Marion County, Newsletter ( Kimberling City, MO: Heritage Keepsakes Inc, 1986), 19.
 Baxter County Chronicles, 124.
 Information on Cotter in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
 B.J. Lawry, Cotter, Arkansas, The Story of a Small Town, 9.
 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Cotter, Arkansas: September 1913 and February 1930.
 Lawry, B.J., Cotter Arkansas, The story of a small town, 6.
 State of Arkansas Planning Board 1935 Report in the files of the Richard C Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.
 Information on Arkansas PWA projects in the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
 Baxter County Chronicles, 160.
The Cotter Water Tower is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its associations with the Public Work Administration (PWA) activities in Cotter, Arkansas during the 1930s. The Cotter Water Tower is also being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C as it is the only example of a 1930s water tower in Cotter built by the PWA. The Cotter Water Tower continues to serve the Cotter Community as the only water tower in the town. The Cotter Water Tower is being submitted to the National Register of Historic Places under the multiple-property listing “An Ambition to Be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933-1943.”
Arkansas Reflections of Our Past Baxter and Marion County. Newsletter. Kimberling City, MO: Heritage Keepsakes Inc, 1986.
Baxter County Chronicles 2005. Bill Dwayne Blevins ed. Mountain Home Arkansas: Tumbling Shoals Publishing Company, 2005.
“Cotter Historical Briefs.” www.cotterar.com/ (accessed August 7, 2006).
Lawry, B.J. Cotter, Arkansas, The story of a small town. Cotter, AR: Ozark Newsletters, 1997.
State of Arkansas Planning Board 1935 Report in the files of the Richard C. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.
I added detailed history about the tower from the National Register nomination.
If this Water Tower was built in 1935 for Cotter, where is the Water Tower that Cotter purchased from Pocahontas Arkansas in the early 1950's. (1951-52) This looks like the Pocahontas Water Tower that was moved to Cotter. I need information.