A “stroke of madness”: two friends buy water towers in Montluçon (Allier) which date from the industrial era

“Who buys water towers? Anybody ! That’s what we liked. »Stéphane Lebourg and Fabien Debarbat are partners in the building and have just bought the two decrepit water towers but still standing on rue Albert-Einstein, near the school of the same name, in Montluçon.

A “boon” for the municipality

“We had this desire two years ago,” says Stéphane Lebourg. “A stroke of madness,” continues Fabien Debarbat. The city of Montluçon sold the plots on which stand the water towers built at the time for the Saint-Gobain factories for an amount of 78,000 euros, during a municipal council meeting on October 22, 2020. A boon for the commune. “The city wanted to get rid of them and demolish them but it would probably have cost between 100,000 and 150,000 euros. They took a thorn off their feet, ”say the two men.

History of the site
These two water towers are the remains of an industrial site called La Glacerie from 1846 and then bought by Saint-Gobain in 1868. Glass and ice cream were produced here, then chemicals (sulfuric acid and superphosphates) and plastic. The water towers date from the beginning of the 20th century, according to local history specialists Éric Bourgougnon and Alain Gourbet. But to our knowledge nothing allows us to define the exact date.

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But what do they want to do with it? “We do not know yet”, they launch, open to proposals. Among the potential ideas, the two friends put forward an indoor and outdoor climbing site, a place dedicated to the trampoline, a bar, a restaurant, offices… “This is our city, we work there and we will surely live there all. our life, so we want to energize it, ”comments Fabien Debarbat.

Cast iron pipes

Inside the largest of the water towers, we find the infrastructures of the time: cast iron pipes, passageways, portholes, valves and especially on the top floor a tank with a capacity of one thousand cubic meters. of water.

On the ground floor of the largest of the water towers.

For the moment, the thirties have cleared the surroundings, installed a fence and started cleaning the water towers. Twelve tonnes of pigeon droppings were removed and recycled. The result of decades of lack of maintenance. They still have to re-coat and paint the exterior, before finding a vocation for the site.

Guillaume Bellavoine
Photos: Florian Salesse

Stéphane Lebourg and Fabien Debarbat, originally from Domérat and Montluçon, are the partners of two companies, one in masonry and tiling, the other in various repairs.Stéphane Lebourg and Fabien Debarbat