Water Tower, Chicago

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 Reviews

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  • Water Tower
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  • Water Tower
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  • Water Tower
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  • apbeaches's Profile Photo

    Water Tower

    by apbeaches Updated Nov 8, 2014

    The Chicago Water Tower is a contributing property in the Old Chicago Water Tower District landmark district. This tower was constructed to house a large water pump, intended to draw water from the Lake Michigan; it now serves as a Chicago Office of Tourism art gallery. The Chicago Water Tower is the second-oldest water tower in the United States The tower, built in 1869 by architect William W. Boyington from yellowing limestone. Inside was a 138 foot standpipe to hold water. In addition to being used for firefighting, the pressure in the pipe could be regulated to control water surges in the area. Together with the adjacent Chicago Avenue Pumping Station, it drew clean water from water cribs in Lake Michigan.

    The tower gained prominence after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. While some incorrectly believe that the tower was the only building to survive the fire, a few other buildings in the burned district survived along with the tower. The tower was the only public building in the burned zone to survive, and is one of just a few of the surviving structures still standing. In the years since the fire, the tower has become a symbol of old Chicago and of the city's recovery from the fire. In 1918, when Pine Street was widened, the plans were altered in order to give the Water Tower a featured location.

    The structure has not been universally admired. Oscar Wilde said it looked like "a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it," although he did admire the arrangement and movement of the pumping machinery inside. The Water Tower's castle-like style inspired the design of many White Castle restaurant buildings. The Tower was named an American Water Landmark in 1969. In 2004, the tower was featured in the finale of The Amazing Race 6.

    Aerial View from the Hancock
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    Burning memory

    by goodfish Updated Feb 16, 2012

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    In 1891, as the legend goes, a cow belonging to a Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary kicked over a lantern and started one of the most destructive fires in U.S. history. The inferno that blazed for two days wiped out over 2,000 acres of urban Chicago, left many thousands homeless, and took between 300 - 400 lives.

    Two of the few structures to survive were a 2 year-old limestone water tower and pump house that have been lovingly preserved both as memorials and icons of tenacity for a city refusing to crumble in the face of tragedy. The fairy-castle tower with its crenellations and turrets is the 2nd oldest in the United States and now serves as a gallery. The pump station is still in use and also houses one the two visitor centers; we picked our our free walking-tour guidebooks here.

    Mrs O'Leary and her poor cow were exonerated of sparking The Great Chicago Fire, and a newspaperman later admitted to sensationalizing what was essentially nothing more than a rumor. Theories are many but the cause was never determined.

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    Night Pictures of Old Water Tower

    by machomikemd Updated Nov 15, 2010

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    this time with Night Views of the Old Water Tower of Chicago, An Architectural Wonder!

    besides the high rises of Hancock tower and Sears Tower (or rather now called the Willis Tower) , Chicago is also well known due to a unique architectural wonder, the Old Water Tower (I have a separate Night View tips of the water tower) . Located adjacent to Loyola University Chicago's downtown campu here in the Luxe Michican Avenues, the Water Tower serves as one of the Chicago Office of Tourism's Official Visitor's Centers. This water tower is claimed as the second-oldest water tower in the United States, and is also claimed to be an inspiration for the famed White Castle Burgers (my fave burgers thanks to Harold and Kumar). Inside are exhibits of local journalists and a branch f the chicago tourism bureau!

    Open: Mon-Sat 10am-6:30pm; Sun 10am-5pm

    nice me hmm
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  • machomikemd's Profile Photo

    Chicago Old Water Tower

    by machomikemd Updated Nov 15, 2010

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    besides the high rises of Hancock tower and Sears Tower (or rather now called the Willis Tower) , Chicago is also well known due to a unique architectural wonder, the Old Water Tower (I have a separate Night View tips of the water tower) . Located adjacent to Loyola University Chicago's downtown campu here in the Luxe Michican Avenues, the Water Tower serves as one of the Chicago Office of Tourism's Official Visitor's Centers. This water tower is claimed as the second-oldest water tower in the United States, and is also claimed to be an inspiration for the famed White Castle Burgers (my fave burgers thanks to Harold and Kumar). Inside are exhibits of local journalists and a branch f the chicago tourism bureau!

    Open: Mon-Sat 10am-6:30pm; Sun 10am-5pm

    the old water tower front water tower me architectural wonder
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    Chicago Water Tower

    by grayfo Updated Sep 3, 2009

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    Standing 154 ft. high. the Water Tower was built in the late 1860s and was constructed with local yellow limestone in a Gothic style that was popular at the time. It was this material that saved the building from the great fire of 1871.

    May 2009

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    Chicago's Water Tower

    by Jefie Updated Oct 13, 2008

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    Before my trip to Chicago, I knew that the Water Tower was one of the local attractions but I could not quite figure out why. When I finally saw the 1869 Gothic structure in the middle of all the modern skyscrapers on Michigan Avenue, I was finally able to grasp the historical significance of Chicago's Water Tower. The architecture of the tower is a bit surprising, considering its initial function. The square base of the 47 m tall tower looks a bit like a medieval castle, complete with dozens of small turrets that led Oscar Wilde to describe it as "a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it"!! But what makes it really special is that it is one of the few structures that were not destroyed by the Great Fire of 1871, and is now the only pre-1871 structure still standing in the area along with the water pumping station located across the street. It has now become a symbol of the city's resilience, and one of the most photographed buildings in Chicago.

    The Chicago Water Tower on Michigan Avenue Horse-drawn carriage in front of the water tower
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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    The old Water Pumping Station and Water Tower

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 14, 2008

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    One of the nice things about the John Hancock Center is that two of Chicago's most historic landmarks are located just across the street - the castle-like Water Pumping Station and its associated Water Tower. They arose from water and sewage problems Chicago was experiencing in 1855, which led to the decision to tunnel two miles out into Lake Michigan to tap into a source of clean fresh water. The tunnel was complete by 1866 and work then started on these two very picturesque structures, using unfinished limestone from Joliet (a few miles southwest of the city) to create the castellated Gothic Revival style of the two buildings. Shortly after they were completed in 1869, they had a near miss when almost all buildings in this district were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.

    The 154-ft tall Water Tower has an octagonal shaft capped by a cupola of steel with a copper roof. Inside the tower was a 138-ft standpipe holding water to provide pressure for firefighting hoses, but it was removed in 1911 when it became obsolete. The photo (3rd) of the Water Tower also shows a ground level view of the 'Bloomingdale' skyscraper I shortly before had looked down upon from the John Hancock Center! Today the Water Tower building is used as a welcome center for visitors to Chicago while the old Pumping Station continues in its original role after several internal modernizations.

    The Chicago Avenue Water Pumping Station Pumping Station as seen from the Water Tower The Chicago Avenue Water Tower Commemorative plaque on the Water Tower
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    Old Water Tower

    by traveloturc Written Aug 6, 2007

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    The oldest building along the Magnificent Mile is the Old Water Tower. The tower was built in 1869 and its castle-like architecture looks a bit out of place in this modern high-rise district. One of the lone survivors of the Chicago Great Fire in 1871, the building symbolizes Chicago's resilience. It faced demolition several times; in 1906, 1918 and 1948 but each time preservationists were able to save the Water Tower.
    Constructed in 1869 using big limestone blocks, the Chicago Water Tower, with all its small towers in a 'gothic style', resembles more a tiny European 13th century castle than a water tower.The total height of the tower is 154 ft or 47 m.
    In May of 1969, during the year of its centennial anniversary, the Chicago Water Tower was selected by the American Water Works Association to be the first American Water Landmark. It now houses a visitor information center and has become one of the major tourist attractions in Chicago.

    water tower

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    Old Water Tower

    by DJMist Written Jun 7, 2007

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    This old gothic style structure was used to equalize pressure along the water mains which served the taller buildings of downtown Chicago. It gained notoriety because it was one of the few structures that survived the 1871 fire in Chicago. It was built in 1869 and has not been in use for many yeas but is now designated a historical landmark and remains a unique piece of architecture, standing in stark contrast to the modern skyscrapers surrounding it. I really enjoy the way the city lights it at night.

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  • antistar's Profile Photo

    Chicago Water Tower

    by antistar Written Apr 22, 2007

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    The Water Tower is one of the most outstanding and famous landmarks in Chicago. It's famous for being the only building left standing after the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871, and while that isn't entirely true, it has become a symbol of Chicago's rebirth from the ashes. It's a gaudy and ostentatious; Oscar Wilde described it as a "castellated monstrosity". But it is magnificent, a building over a century old, standing in the shadow of the modern monolithic "monstrosity" of the Hancock Tower.

    Water Tower, Chicago Water Tower underneath Park Tower

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  • msocolin's Profile Photo

    Water Tower

    by msocolin Written Jan 6, 2006

    The Chicago Water Tower is a landmark in downtown Chicago along the Magnificent Mile. It now serves as the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau Visitor's Welcome Center.

    This is one of the few, if not the only, buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It was built in 1869 and was constructed of dolomitic limestone. Built in a castellated Gothic architectural style, it has a 154 foot (46 m) tall tower which originally hid a 138 foot (42 m) tall standpipe used to keep water flowing.

    The water tower in the Magnificent Mile Water Tower as seen from the Hancock Observatory
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  • trina1's Profile Photo

    Water Tower and Fire Station

    by trina1 Written Jul 16, 2004

    The water tower make for a nice photo it is on north michigan avenue it is opp the visitor center which is made out of the same brick as the tower also just behind the visitor center is an old fire station which got it`s water from the water tower.

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  • SnowAngel's Profile Photo

    In Chicago: Visit the Old...

    by SnowAngel Written Aug 26, 2002

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    In Chicago: Visit the Old Water Tower one of the only buildings to survive the Chicago Fire of 1871; The Navy Pier is an attraction now, equipped with Ferris Wheel and all; Lincoln Park Zoo; and of course the Buckingham Fountain- my favorite!!!!
    Buckingham Fountain is beautiful and breathtaking at night. Not to mention very romantic! Lots of great photo opportunities in Chicago and I hope you don't miss out on any of them!

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  • SnoopySue's Profile Photo

    Water Tower

    by SnoopySue Updated Nov 21, 2004

    Built just before th efire of 1871, the Water Tower was the only building (as well as Pumping Station), which survive the conflagration. Now it is a city gallery exhibits art of photography.

    Water Tower

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