Water Tower


This 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, which is well worth a peek for its Chicago-themed works by local artists.

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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Chicago attractions

1. City Gallery

Set inside the historic Water Tower, this small gallery showcases Chicago-themed works by local photographers and artists.

2. Water Works Pumping Station

0.07 MILES

Built in 1869, the Pumping Station and Water Tower, its companion building across the street, were constructed in Gothic style with yellow limestone. It's…

3. Chicago Sports Museum

0.08 MILES

To understand Chicago's sports psyche, peruse the memorabilia-filled cases at this gallery attached to Harry Caray's 7th Inning Stretch restaurant. See…

4. 360° Chicago

0.12 MILES

The views from the 94th-floor observatory of this iconic building (formerly known as the John Hancock Center) in many ways surpass those at the Willis…

5. Museum of Contemporary Art

0.16 MILES

Consider it the Art Institute’s brash, rebellious sibling, with especially strong minimalist, surrealist and conceptual photography collections, and…

6. Holy Name Cathedral

0.19 MILES

Holy Name Cathedral is the seat of Chicago’s Catholic Church and where its powerful cardinals do their preaching. It provides a quiet place for…

7. Driehaus Museum

0.23 MILES

Set in the exquisite Nickerson Mansion, the Driehaus immerses visitors in Gilded Age decorative arts and architecture. You'll feel like a Great Gatsby…

8. Magnificent Mile

0.24 MILES

Spanning N Michigan Ave between the river and Oak St, the 'Mag Mile' is Chicago's much-touted upscale shopping strip, where Bloomingdale's, Apple,…