Old Water Tower in Chicago

Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Old Water Tower in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation

Chicago, Northern Trust Outdoor Public Garden, Looking North

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Old Water Tower
Also known as:Old Chicago Water Tower

806 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, Gold Coast 60611
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In the middle of a city known for its towers of glass and steel stands a tower made of stone that looks out of place. The Old Water Tower looks like an oversized set decoration from some Elizabethan play. But this isn't knights slaying dragons, this is the city slaking its thirst. Before electric water pumps were invented, the city's drinkig water came ashore from Lake Michigan thanks to inventions known as Corliss engines. These trapped water several miles offshore and moved the water into the city via an undersea tunnel. The system worked, but was not without its flaws. There were vast fluctuations in water pressure, and this immense tower was designed to regulate that. Behind the neo-gothic facade is a 138-foot-tall standpipe that helped control the city's water pressure. Electric water pumps have long since made the Corliss engines redundant, so now the tower regulates the city's flow of tourists. Since the 1970's it has served as a tourist information office.

Quick Facts
Timeline
  • September, 2010: This building was named #18 on Chicago Magazine's list of the Top 40 Buildings in Chicago.
  • May 10, 2011: A small fire broke out inside this building. It was confined to a motor, and was put out quickly.
Notes
  • The limestone for the tower was quarried in nearby Joliet, Illinois.
Did You Know?
  • The Old Water Tower is the only public building in Chicago that survived the fire of 1871.
Quotations
  • "[A] monstrosity with salt and pepper boxes stuck all over it."

    --Oscar Wilde

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Your Thoughts

There are 10 comments.

  Apart from any question of its inherent architectural merit (which is considerable, as a reflection of the Victorian penchant for adapting historical styles to utilitarian needs), this gem provides a perfect visual cap to the view northward along Michigan Avenue from the river. Its present status as a visitor center is a most appropriate adaptive reuse.

Alan Follett - Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 @ 9:11am  

  This is the best tower i have ever seen it looks like a tower from the medievil times i wish i lived HERE ITS SO PRETTY

Jackie - Thursday, April 30th, 2009 @ 6:51pm  

  This is a neat Water Tower. I like how it started to get Chicago to thinking of how to make new skyscrapers and the world, after the Great Fire of 1871.

Brent Kampert - Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 @ 2:06pm  

  This architectual beauty is the highlight of Chicago's vast array of city structures. thisold is definately a landmark beauty!

Lisa Hemingway - Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 @ 1:16pm  

  A majestic classic. Chocago is worthy of her.

Mark Luehmann - Sunday, July 6th, 2008 @ 4:22pm  

  I will always have great memories of this wonderful structure. The Prudential Building was the tallest structure whhen I firstvisited Chicago

rafe - Tuesday, December 18th, 2007 @ 8:53pm  

  A masterpiece and the ultimate symbol of Sweet Home Chicago.

David Shmuel - Saturday, July 28th, 2007 @ 12:22am  

  Its an amazing site to see.

Peter - Sunday, May 15th, 2005 @ 3:43pm  

  breathtaking; a chicago clasic

c. nora - Sunday, January 2nd, 2005 @ 11:43pm  

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