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Riverside Water Tower

Posted by
Steven (Chicagoland, United States) on 2 April 2013 in Architecture and Portfolio.

The Riverside Water Tower was a technological marvel of steam-driven pumps providing a safe, reliable water supply to village residents. The water tower served as a beautifully-designed advertising piece, calling attention to the passengers on the trains stopping at the station, that something special and different was growing here along the Des Plaines River.

The design and construction of a central water tower would ensure a clean, adequate water supply for the new community. Prior to construction of the tower, the community had depended on a central wooden water tank, the water piped through wooden mains from a well in the northern part of the village, and water was carried by residents from the tank to their home. The new water tower was built “to ensure an abundant supply of water to every dwelling in this elegant suburb”.

The water tower was designed by William LeBaron Jenney in a Swiss Gothic style, a style shared in part by the Riverside Hotel (built in 1871) and by many of the original 1870s homes. Jenney, a noted Chicago architect whose work includes the Home Insurance Building (the first steel-supported skyscraper) and the Manhattan Building (431 S. Dearborn, Chicago, Illinois), also supervised the overall construction of the Olmsted and Vaux plan for Riverside and designed many of the first Riverside homes. The tower was built on a sloping stone base, and clad with red and cream brick up to a wooden Swiss Gothic decorative treatment capped by a cone shaped slate roof to a peak lightning rod iron finial. Surrounding the original wooden water tank was an iron observation balcony nearly 70 feet high, a popular place for residents to view downtown Chicago, nine miles away.

Through the years, the water complex has been put to different uses. In 1901, the Chicago Telephone Company rented the east well house as a telephone station. In 1969, the Riverside Historical Society moved in the east well house, and the Recreation Office moved into the pump house in 1999. In 1990, a fire in the pump house resulted in extensive repairs, including the removal of the engineer’s attic apartment to provide additional office space and the redesign of the front entrance.

In 2005, work started on a major construction project to restore the water tower to its 1913 appearance. The offices in the pump house were relocated to the Public Works Facility across the Des Plaines River in Riverside Lawn. The work include digging a moat around the tower to contain the lead based paint that was removed. The work crews had to construct a scaffold that completely surrounded the tower structure all the way up to the lower roof line. The extensive work included removing all the paint from the brick and masonry of the tower and pump house. Tuck pointing, then sealing the brick surfaces, repairing the roof, windows and painting the metal tank at the top of the tower. The slate roof on the west well house was redone in new slate to place the large holes in the roof that had materialized in years past. It was difficult to find craftsmen capable of doing the work because of the unique pointed cap shape of the roof profile. The total project including repairs to both flanking well houses ended up costing $1.37 million. The renovation garnered a 2006 Design Excellence Distinguished Award from the American Institute of Architects.

In June 2006, the Riverside Board of Trustees voted to proceed with an interior remodeling of the base of the tower and attached pump house. Although originally envisioned to be re-purposed as museum exhibit space and an archival library where visiting scholars could research urban planning, the decision was made to move the Riverside Recreation Department into this centrally located building. When the work had been completed, new offices and programming space had been created for the Riverside Recreation Department.

Standing at the center of the village since 1869, the water tower has become the symbol of Riverside. It is used as a logo for the village government, and its image has been reproduced as a piggy bank, Christmas ornament, and on athletic gear.

Photo captured March 29, 2013.

NIKON D7000 1/321 second F/9.0 ISO 100 34 mm

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Heinz from Hamm, Germany

Schönes altes Gebäude. Gutes Licht und Schatten. Interessante Info.

2 Apr 2013 6:30am

Stephen from Canberra, Australia

Wonderful shot of this rare and unusual architecture. A very iconic structure for the town - and interesting information you provide.

2 Apr 2013 9:39am

MadScientist from Düsseldorf, Germany

A very pretty tower, and its environment looks good, too!

2 Apr 2013 10:15am

tataray from france, France

Magnifique architecture ... sous cette lumière superbe.
Attrayante image.)

2 Apr 2013 10:22am

Mhelene from Villiers-sur-Marne, France

A very beautiful composition .

2 Apr 2013 10:56am

Nigel from Avening, United Kingdom

So vibrant

2 Apr 2013 11:17am

Ronnie 2¢ from Atlantic Shores, United Kingdom

What a fascinating image and story . .

2 Apr 2013 11:20am

Mariana Maoduš from Waterloo, Canada

Beautiful framing and this blue sky is stunning !

2 Apr 2013 12:21pm

omid from mashhad, Iran

very nice & amazing!
so beautiful frame, colors, lights & shadows!

2 Apr 2013 12:27pm

Ruthiebear from Titusville, NJ, United States

5 stars from me - SUperb light and color.

2 Apr 2013 5:33pm

Francisco Romero from Carbajal de la Legua, Spain

Very beautiful image of this wonderful building. Thanks for the meticulously arranged information,

2 Apr 2013 6:43pm

Rick from Toronto, Canada

Wow, what a gorgeous tower. Unique. I always appreciate your informative texts, too.

2 Apr 2013 7:25pm

Steve Rice from Olympia, United States

A gorgeous structure and image! The restoration work seems have been very well done and at a reasonable price given all the effort involved.

2 Apr 2013 8:47pm

Judy aka L@dybug from Brooksville, FL, United States

What an incredibly beautiful landmark for this town ... with great history; thank you for sharing!

2 Apr 2013 10:05pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

terrific. very classy!

2 Apr 2013 11:13pm

HARRY OCONNOR from Apex NC, United States

When I went to R-B high school, I used to walk up into Riverside and drink Cokes at a little hole-in-the-wall grill across the tracks. Your superb shot and interesting history make me want to head back the next time I am in Chicagoland to view the restored complex.

2 Apr 2013 11:39pm

Abena from Illinois, United States

Thanks for the history :) The building is massive ! And I like that you have a human in it to put that into perspective.

3 Apr 2013 1:13am

Elaine Hancock from Rockville, United States

What a gorgeous water tower. I love the ornamentation. It has had quite a history. I just love the architecture. Beautiful POV and frame.

3 Apr 2013 1:13am

Michael Rawluk from Williams Lake, BC, Canada

That is quite the building and history.

3 Apr 2013 4:25am

L'angevine from Angers, France

intéressante architecture

3 Apr 2013 7:40am

franz from Baden, Austria

wow, this reminds me strongly of a tower at one the many european castles ...

3 Apr 2013 7:30pm

Sarito from Basingstoke, United Kingdom

So much history behind.. lovely shot

4 Apr 2013 10:43am