The 154ft-tall, turreted tower is a defining city icon: it was the sole downtown survivor of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, thanks to its yellow limestone bricks, which withstood the flames. Today the tower houses the free City Gallery, showcasing Chicago-themed works by local photographers and artists and is well worth a peek.
Built in 1869, the tower and its companion Water Works Pumping Station were constructed in a Gothic style popular at the time. They were the great hope of Chicago when they first opened, part of a technological breakthrough that was going to provide fresh, clean water for the city. Alas, the plan was ultimately a failure. By 1906 the Water Tower was obsolete and only public outcry saved it from demolition three times. Restoration in 1962 ensured its survival.