Historic Water Tower Gets Preservation Funds

When you live in a city as vast and interesting as Chicago, it’s easy to get lost staring at your own bellybutton.  But there is a whole lot more Illinois beyond the south suburban pumpkin patches.

One of those places is Havana, which is located about half way between Peoria and Springfield on the Illinois River.  Like many downstate communities, it claims to be where Al Capone would go to get his nature on.  More germane to our field of interest, Havana has a historic water tower that’s not located in Chicago.

Havana Water Tower (Courtesy of Preservation Illinois)
Havana Water Tower (Courtesy of Landmarks Illinois)

The Havana Water Tower was built over 130 years ago on Main Street Hill, is almost 90 feet tall, and is the symbol of the city.  Designed by the F.W. Raider company of Saint Louis, it was the only source of water for the city for three-quarters of a century, and is still being used today. 

The octagonal brick tower is supported by a limestone base and surmounted by a steel drum. The tower made its way onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. 

The brick walls of the tower are over two feet thick at the base, and taper to about 18 inches in thickness at the top.  It’s believed the bricks were made at a local brickworks.  The steel tank is 36 feet tall, and 15 feet in diameter.  It was actually open to the sky for the tower’s first 80 years, and a flat, metal roof was added in the 1950’s. The cone-shaped roof you see today is a later addition, but matches the original 1889 plans from the building’s engineer.

Diagram of the Havana Water Tower
Diagram of the Havana Water Tower

Today the water tower is in trouble. Even though people love it, it’s in rough shape.  And while everyone agrees it’s bad, nobody knows exactly how bad.  

To help figure that out out, Landmarks Illinois has given the City of Havana $2,500 to map out just how bad off the structure is.  We know the brickwork needs help, and the tank, itself, has suffered from “some failure.” It remains to be seen if it can be saved.

Location: 113 North Pearl Street, Havana, Illinois

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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