Historic Structures

North Point Water Tower, Milwaukee Wisconsin

Date added: November 17, 2009 Categories: Wisconsin Special and Unique

Part of the complex erected for the Milwaukee Water Works over one hundred years ago, the lofty Victorian Gothic Water Tower stands on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan and encloses an iron standpipe that originally served to relieve city water mains of pulsations from pumping engines housed in the lake-front pumping station. Modern equipment has made the facility unnecessary, but tower and standpipe have remained, little altered through the years. Long a notable feature of the city's skyline and often praised for its beauty, the Water Tower has been accorded official landmark status by the Milwaukee Landmarks Commission and the American Water Works Association.

Work on the foundation had begun by May, 1873; and on September 14, 1874, the tower was put in service, though work continued through the end of that year. Total cost of the tower, including the standpipe, was $53,017.93.

The similarity between the North Point Water Tower and its more elaborate counterpart in Chicago, completed in 1869, may he noted here. There is no reason to suppose that Gomhert was unaware of the celebrated Chicago tower, and one reliable source reports that his colleague Moses Lane, city engineer and chief engineer of the Milwaukee Water Works, had been, earlier in his career, an associate of Ellis Chesbrough, city engineer of Chicago.

The structure is 24 feet 9 inches square, with buttresses at the four corners, From center line to center line of the buttresses, the structure, measures 29 feet 6 inches square. The base rises 65 feet and from it rises the circular tower to a total height of over 175 feet.

The floor plan is a single circular compartment 13 feet 9 inches in diameter. The walls are more than six feet thick in this area. The tower tapers slightly upward to the level of the wooden observation deck 134 feet 7 inches above the floor level. An iron, spiral staircase wraps around the standpipe to the upper levels. The lower windows in the circular shaft (about 65 feet 3 inches above base level) are connected to the steps by an iron catwalk and brace. An iron-plate floor with a brace to the pipe is located 17 feet below the observation deck and 2-1/2 feet below the grill cap of the standpipe.

The wrought-iron standpipe is four feet in diameter and rises 120 feet above the floor level. According to a Water Commission report of 1875, the pipe has a total height of 130 feet, with a base of cast iron. The size of the base is unknown, but the report indicated that it has three openings 36 inches in diameter, one for the force main connection, one for the main leading to the reservoir, and the other capped.