Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Southampton’s Tallest Structure?

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My old hometown once had exclusive bragging rights to, “the world’s tallest free-standing structure!”

That is until Dubai decided it deserved that distinction even more, (given all the sky scrapers they have growing in the desert), and added a few more stories to one of their behemoth buildings to take the prize.

Nonetheless, Toronto still has its fair share of ‘tallness.’ The downtown corridor is filled with financial towers, office complexes and hotel/condos that reach ever upwards shutting out the sun and creating constant shade. Lately though, the building boom has given way to the outer reaches of T.O. Just draw a semi-circle east to west and the drive the perimeter. You’ll find even more construction reaching new heights as condos and apartments enter the game to see who wins when it comes to bigger and higher.

It’s all architectural vanity.

When I first moved to Southampton I felt overwhelmed by space. There isn’t a building in this town over four stories high. Which is good. At least the wind off the lake is not channeled through concrete and glass canyons. It is free to roam the streets in whatever direction it chooses. The sun and clouds are not hidden from sight. There is an openness that sets you free. No claustrophobia here. And wandering through this newfound open concept I got to thinking…”what is the tallest building in Southampton?”

Well, without the benefit of more facts, I’d say there’s a close competition between five structures. Structures being the operative word since three of them are just that…structures.

The two actual buildings are tall by virtue of their towers. The clock tower on the old Town Hall dominates High Street. You do have to look up at it. It appears head and shoulders above anything else ‘downtown’ (as they say).

There’s competition from the tower on the old, yellow-bricked Southampton Public School. It stands alone without much around it to compare to. And that makes it hard to judge it a winner. Besides, the modernity of the attached Bruce County Museum gives the school a level of distinction the others can’t match.

Then there’s the flagpole at the foot of High Street. We know for sure that it is a “tapered steel pole having a base diameter of 24 inches and a top diameter of 8 inches and a material thickness of ½ an inch.” This hollow pole stands 135 feet high and supports a flag that 25 feet by 50 feet! And if you consider that there is another 14 feet below ground “embedded in 44 yards of concrete” you have a reasonably impressive front-runner.

Looking off shore, one mile Southwest of the mouth of Southampton Harbour you can’t miss the Imperial Tower of the Chantry Island Lighthouse. Certainly older than The Flag, it was first lit on April Fool’s Day in 1895. Like the flagpole, it is hollow too, only you can walk the 115 narrow steps up into the light tower. That’s 80 feet from the base. The lighthouse sits 86 feet above the water level. Whether or not that makes it taller than the landlocked flagpole – I have no idea. But when you get up there and look landward, you definitely get the feeling that it is.

Nonetheless, both onshore and offshore, they are distinctive landmarks.

Less famous, ignored,  standing tall away from the centre of it all, never ever talked about, but just as impressive is my personal favourite and in my opinion the winner in all of this – The Southampton Water Tower. I wish I had more numbers to back this up but I don’t.

All I go by is the fact that it is visible from the bottom of High Street. It sits big, blue, bold and without fanfare beside the Fire Hall overlooking Fairy Lake, the playground and the rest of the town. “Southampton” is painted in large white letters across the top. On the roof sit aerials and antennae adding to its height. Add the fact that it is located on a bit of a hill – and – I believe you have the tallest structure in Southampton.

What impresses me about The Water Tower is simply that it is what it is. Tourists ignore it. The locals don’t make a fuss about it.

It stands; quietly on it’s own, confident in its superiority.











Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

February 18, 2008 at 9:37 PM

Posted in Home Town

One Response

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  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Jennifer Lancey

    Jennifer Lancey

    February 18, 2008 at 9:41 PM

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