Near North Area Map
The Chicago Water Tower was erected in 1869 and housed a 138-foot-high standpipe, three feet in diameter, which equalized pressure and controlled the water flowing through the mains throughout the City. Fortunately, the tower was solidly constructed of Joliet limestone blocks, a foresight which proved invaluable two years after the completion of construction when, on the morning of October 9, 1871, flames engulfed Chicago and leveled nearly every building except for the Water Tower.
On the day following the fire, the Water Tower served as a guidepost by which citizens hunted through the ruins for what had once been their homes. It became a monument to the efforts of Chicago's water works engineers; it became and has remained a symbol of Chicago's indomitable "I will" spirit.
In 1969, the year of its centennial anniversary, the water tower was nationally recognized as the First American Water Landmark and in 1972, the Chicago Landmarks Commission designated the Chicago Water Tower and the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station as City landmarks. Today the historic Water Tower serves as a Visitor Information Center which offers information about special events, festivals, parades, theater and dance performances, current exhibits at museums and much more.
The Water Tower is just one of the many landmark buildings along Michigan Avenue. The modern era of "The Avenue" began with the development in 1947 of the "The Magnificent Mile" campaign, as well as several important public works campaigns. The campaign was a joint effort of the City, local businesses and community organizations to construct new buildings, to renovate old ones and add several new parks and landscaping projects in an effort to revitalize the area. Public works projects also laid the groundwork for future growth along Michigan Avenue. The first of these was completion of the Lake Shore Drive bridge in 1937, connecting Michigan Avenue to the Loop. In 1943 the State Street Subway was completed, which put North Michigan Avenue within easy walking distance of the City's rapid transit system for the first time. It was at this time that Michigan Avenue began to be known as The Magnificent Mile.
Like the Burnham Plan before it, the Magnificent Mile campaign called for the construction of signature structures that would line the boulevard. As a result the modern Chicago Landmarks of the Prudential Building, John Hancock Building and the Water Tower Place were built. By the end of the 1970's Michigan Avenue had become Chicago's dominant retail street and remains so today.
The Chicago Water Tower, designed in 1867 by architect William W. Boyington has been the City's most cherished landmark for over a century. It stands today on North Michigan Avenue as memorial to the victims of the Great Chicago Fire.