Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

L.A. EXPRESS, MAY 24, 1928

1905 Gorter

watertower1_1905c_lafd_2.gif (30934 bytes)

  In the official records of the Los Angeles City Council or the Fire Commission there is nothing to indicate how Henry H. Gorter was lured away from his job at San Francisco. It may have been the $150. monthly salary, which was considerable more than he was making there, and moreover, he may have thought he had more opportunity to sell more water towers after completion of LAFD's tower. He may have been promised a position as Sup't of Engineers and Machinery after the completion of the tower. The Mayor, at the August 13, 1904 Council meeting asked that an ordinance be drafted creating the position of "Superintendent of of Engines and Machinery". On December 21, 1904, the Fire Commission made the same request of the Council and fixed the salary at $150. per month.

  The actual date that work started on the tower is not recorded, however on February 1, 1904, Gorter received his first $150.00 monthly payment as per the contract. On February 23, 1904, Chief Strohm reported payment of $8.92 for blueprints and $150.00 salary for the "mechanic" building the water tower. It may be safe to assume that construction began sometime in late January or in February, 1904. On march 28, 1904 Chief Strohm reported the payment of $60.00 for 400 lbs. of steel castings for the tower. Then on April 25, 1904, the Chief reported payment of $79.88 for cartage of patterns and castings from San Francisco. On February 25, 1905, Gorter received his next to last $150.00 payment as per the contract. There is no doubt that the Gorter Water Tower was constructed entirely in the shops behind Engine Co.4.

  The acceptance test was conducted on March 4, 1905, with three steamers drafting from the Los Angeles Light Co. reservoir at 5th and Alameda Streets
. . ."being successful in every way and it was ordered accepted" by the Fire Commission meeting held on March 11, 1905.

  At that same meeting, a statement from Gorter for his time prior to the start of construction being 42 days a $5.00 per day or $210.00 was approved for payment. Also at this meeting, H. H. Gorter was appointed Sup't of Engines and Mach'y at a monthly salary of $150.00 per month to be effective March 1, 1905. On March 22, 1905, Gorter's claim for $751.05 on the balance due on the water tower was approved for payment. The City Council and Fire Commission minutes make no mention of Gorter after his appointment. Sometime during late 1905 or early 1906, Gorter left the LAFD and no official reason has been found. On April 27, 1906, Alfred Price was appointed Sup't of Engines and Mach'y as of May 1, 1906.


  Water Tower 1 was officially commissioned July 1, 1905 and moved into the former quarters of Truck "A" at Engine Co.4, 227 Aliso Street. Truck "A" had been de-commissioned earlier in 1905 and it is thought that it was placed in service with the members from the closed Truck. Water Tower 1 remained at Engine Co.4 until Truck "A" (now known as Truck 1 with a new horse-drawn Anderson City Service Truck) was reinstated. On August 16, 1910 Engine Co.24 was opened at 2nd and Hewitt Street and Water Tower 1 moved in. In mid 1914, shop numbers were beginning to show up and the Gorter Tower officially became Shop No.79.

  Shop No.79 was still located with Engine 24 when it was taken out of service on July 19, 1921 and sent to the Municipal Shops where the 1918 American La-France Type 31 2-wheeled tractor was removed from Shop No.22, Engine 3's Ex 1st Size Metropolitan steamer and attached to the tower motorizing the last horse-drawn apparatus in service on the LAFD. It was returned to service at Engine Co. 24 on October 13, 1921.

  Water Tower 1's last horse-drawn run was with "Archie" (No.152), "Tom" (No.158) and "Pinky" (No.192) pulling the Gorter out of Engine Co.No.24 on February 8, 1921;
. . .2-2 Box 272, 1240 E. 6th Street. Engine 24 worked 1 hr and 19 minutes . . . no work for tower".

  Shop No.79 remained at Engine Co.24 until 1926 when it was relocated to Engine Co.5 at 4th and Towne Street. There it remained until taken out of service on November 30, 1949 and stored at Engine Co.7

  Contrary to one claim that the Gorter Water Tower and Water Tower-Truck Co.24 both operated at the Grey Building fire on November 6, 1939, it did not happen. Only Only Water Tower-Truck Co.24, Shop No.1085, the 1938 American La-France operated at this fire.

  Henry H. Gorter's most notable accomplishment was the three water towers he designed and built, however his Gorter Monitor and Wagon Battery nozzles and worm-type nozzle shut-offs were widely used in many Western fire departments. Gorter's shut-offs were designed to give hosemen the ability of turning off and on high pressure streams and to prevent hosemen from slamming nozzles shut which ran the risk of bursting hose, or stalling rotary type pumping engines, and on rare occasion, breaking the crank shaft on rotary type engines. S.F.&W. W. Hirsch, Seagrave agents in Los Angeles sold a worm-type shut-off called the "Metropolitan" made by L. F. Katona. It was adopted as standard on the LAFD. When they were no longer available, the LAFD purchased the patterns and made them in their own well equipped shops. They can still be found on LAFD apparatus.

City Council and Fire Commission Minutes
January 31, 1902 to April 27, 1906

Assignment Record for Water Tower No. 1

Instructions for Operating the Gorter Water Tower
Chart- Water Stream Angles-LAFD Fire College

Related Topic
Water Towers of America 1878 to 1937

Walt Pittman 4-23-89

This article appeared in the September 1987 issue of The FIREMAN'S GRAPEVINE.

Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved.