Monday, April 4, 2011

Water Towers, Leeton

Water Tower, Leeton

Over the weekend I visited Leeton in the Riverina region of New South Wales for their first Art Deco Festival.

The Leeton Shire website says 'Leeton was the first town built as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) and was designed with the assistance of noted American architect Walter Burley Griffin'.

So on that basis I've taken the liberty to post something that is not really Art Deco but is strongly associated with Leeton, Griffin and water.

There are three water towers in the centre of Leeton (two are pictured above). The Irrigation Commissioner's fortnightly official report published in the Sydney Morning Herald 19 December 1913, included that the water tower was 'being rapidly proceeded with'.

Water Tower, Leeton

Griffin designed included two towers in his initial design for Leeton to serve as portals to the town. Alasdair McGregor, in his book of the Griffins, Grand Obsessions, quotes Marion Mahony Griffin from her memoires recounting 'Griffin had made the drawings for the crowns of the towers on shipboard and sent them back when he landed in America'. While one tower was the first Griffin designed structure built in Australia, the second tower was not completed until 1937.

Water Tower, Leeton

The third tower which is shorter but with a larger overall capacity, was completed in 1973. It bears a similar crown without the pierced elements of Griffin's design.

Water Tower, Leeton

On Saturday night an outdoor cinema was created for the Art Deco Festival when Fritz Lang's Metropolis was projected onto the side of the 1973 water tower.

Water Tower, Leeton

Leeton Shire: Birthplace of the MIA. Retrieved April 4, 2011, from

IRRIGATION AREAS. (1913, December 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842-1954), p. 6. Retrieved April 4, 2011, from

Grand Obsessions: The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, Alasdair McGregor, Penguin Group (Australia), 2009

Leeton ~ Yango ~ Whitton Heritage Trails Booklet, Leeton Shire Council, 2011


  1. Great to see this! I have been interested in Art Deco for a few years now. Don't know what triggered the interest, but I lived in Leeton for about 20 years. It was only after a visit following a 20 odd year absence that I saw he town's architecture with new eyes.It was great to see the new(ish) shopping centre on the site of the old cannery car park has paid homage to the style.
    Regards to all, Arthur Russ.

    1. Thanks Arthur.
      Leeton is planning another Art Deco festival for April 2013. It would be a great time to make another visit.

  2. Hi David
    Above you state "one tower was the first Griffin designed structure built in Australia". Do you have a clear reference for that, or is that the conclusion you've come to based on the 1913 news article and what you know of other Griffin designs in Australia?
    Thanks for your help
    Regards Nigel

    1. Hi Nigel,
      In "Grand Obsessions" (p272), Alasdair McGregor writes in relation to Leeton, "The two towers subsequently became the first structures of any kind exclusively designed by Griffin to be built in Australia" citing a reference to "The Griffins in Australia and India", p 107, Jeff Turnbull & Peter Y Navaretti (eds).
      The Leeton, Yanco, Whitton Heritage Trails Booklet produced by Leeton Shies council describes 3 water towers, one constructed in 1912, a second completed in 1937 and a third in 1973. My conclusion from this information is that only one of the towers could be the first Griffin designed structure built in Australia since the completion date for the second one is 1937.
      I hopes this helps.

  3. Thanks David, that's great.
    I'm trying to help promote a Yesteryear Market in Leeton and wanted some historical features to share on the Facebook page. Your comment caught my eye quite a while back as being something extra special. I just wanted to double check the source before I repeated that claim.