OCEAN CITY - The water tower on 11th Street between Haven and West avenues has been a part of the island's skyline for almost 90 years, but it will take only one day for it to disappear.
New Jersey American Water's 460,000-gallon, 125-foot, blank white tank is no longer needed to serve the city, so workers plan to spend all day Thursday breaking it down into pieces using blowtorches.
"They'll be taking it apart like a jigsaw puzzle," said New Jersey American spokesman Peter Eschbach.
The structure has been obsolete for years. It's one of many being disassembled in the state because they are costly to maintain and often unpleasant looking when left to the elements.
"I don't think residents of Ocean City would just want this thing hanging around, rusting," Eschbach said.
This particular tower, which is technically referred to as a standpipe, mainly served as a backup in case the local fire department needed extra water pressure and capacity.
"We have never experienced any pressure problems or water problems on our end," said Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Breunig, whose firefighters needed so much water to fight a blaze at the former Bellevue Hotel last year, they flooded several city streets.
There are two other water towers in the city - one on Eighth Street and another on 46th Street - that, along with modern wells, can satisfy the huge demand in Ocean City during the summer season. Thursday's work will not disrupt service on the island.
All water towers are intended to provide water pressure and a reserve in cases of peak need. Because the water is elevated, the tanks also serve to ensure pressure during a power outage, allowing gravity to carry the water to users.
Ocean City's other towers, including the iconic, spherical, "Welcome to Ocean City, N.J." tower near the city's main entrance, are larger and newer than the 11th Street tank. The one on Eighth Street was built in 1958 and holds 750,000 gallons, and the one on 46th was built in 1973 and holds 1,000,000 gallons.
By comparison, the newest water tower New Jersey American is building, in Egg Harbor Township, will hold 1.5 million gallons.
Eschbach said the company disassembled earlier this year a standpipe similar to the one at 11th Street in Ocean City in Mullica Hill, Gloucester County. Pictures on the company's Facebook page show a worker on a lift cutting it into sections that are lowered down by a crane.
The 11th Street tower was built in 1925. It has been emptied of water for its removal, but it held water until recently - even though it was unnecessary - because it makes the structure safer. A powerful storm could more easily blow over an empty tower than one filled with water, Eschbach said.
It is surrounded by some homes and businesses, as well as an electrical substation, the city's Public Works Department building, a lumber yard and New Jersey American Water warehouses.
Several residents who live nearby said they won't miss the tower once it's gone.
"If they had it painted or had done something to it, then maybe," said Kate Nicotera, who lives year-round across West Avenue.
Nicotera said she has already taken photos of the tower, and she plans to take photos again when it starts to come down Thursday.
Jamie Slate, a manager at nearby Red's Jersey Mex Cafe, said her business would have liked to see it stay, under one condition: "We wanted to put our logo on it."
Otherwise, no tears would be shed over its demise.
"We're happy to see it go because we look out our window and see all the rust on the bottom," she said.
New Jersey American's contractor, Iseler Demolition, will start preparing the site today, with work slated to begin Thursday at dawn. It should be completed that day by dusk, but it could be delayed until Friday if there is bad weather Thursday.
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West Avenue between 11th and 12th streets, and 11th Street between Haven and West avenues, will be closed all day Thursday and possibly Friday while workers disassemble the 11th Street water tower. Parking is not permitted there as of Tuesday. Local residents will have access to their homes.