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The Why


Agincourt may be unique among communities her size: she has both a “Y” and a Why.

An outgrowth of Asbury Methodist Episcopal church—almost literally attached to its north side—the YMCA has been a community feature since about 1910. It had been a part of Asbury’s “Social Gospel” ministry since the ’90s and became a semi-independent operation just before WWI. But the other part of this Y–Why pairing is an odd structure behind Hradek’s Shoe Repair on South Broad street.

Through a glitch in railroad paperwork, the Milwaukee Road depot received two prefabricated water towers to replace an earlier tower long past useful life. Rather than admit clerical error, the duplicate kit was offered for sale at a bargain price—finagled by Frank Steele, station manager. In addition to his railway-related job, Steel was also an organizer of Agincourt’s “Bradlaugh Club”, a group of certified, card-carrying non-believers who met regularly as an alternative to organized religion. The group had met in members’ homes but wanted a physical presence in the city parallel with the churches in their midst. So, Steele arranged the sale to his fellow co-irreligionists and bought the back fifty feet of Hradek’s lot for site. Imagine the fun of repurposing something so non-spiritual as a water tower as the center of non-belief in Agincourt. That’s what I’m trying to do just now, to build a model for the October 2018 exhibit.

The program will be simple: a rotunda reached by stairs beneath; the space itself, a combination library-lecture room. No need for a toilet? Atheists can hold it.

The library was curated by Ernie “Red” Anhauser, otherwise watchmaker at Salmagundi.

Post Script: The challenge—not even a trick—is using the tower’s kit of parts. These things arrived pre-cut and pre-packaged on a flatbed rail car. One CMStP&P tower was like every other, so it arrived with exactly the proper parts and a few sheets of instruction: “tab A in slot B,” that sort of thing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a model for the October exhibit?


Notice the logarithmic placement of the reinforcing bands around the tank itself. The decrease in spacing from top to bottom, corresponding to the increasing pressure of water.

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