Michigan’s Old Water Towers, 1800s-1970s
I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone what a water tower is. Yeah, it supplies water to its community, but they are also beacons to the town in which it stands.
Decades ago (based on my own childhood experiences), village and town water towers had a long line of rungs from the ground all the way to the top. Teens would climb up those steps with their trusty cans of spray paint and do their graffiti. Then they’d sit down, get a birdseye view of the town, and have a beer. Yup, some kids fell.
After continuous injuries and some deaths, the towns got wise and dismantled the bottom half of the rungs. However, that didn’t stop the kids. The design of some tower legs had criss-crossing metal beams that the kids used to resume climbing to the top. More time and injuries go by, and finally modern water towers began installing stairs and catwalks that were inside the structure behind locked doors.
Many old water towers have been rescued from demolition and put on display as historic figures. Others - especially the ones at railroad depots - have been made into apartments and homes. Some water towers have been creatively built to catch the eye of the traveler. For instance, in Collinsville, Illinois, the tower is a big ketchup bottle…..the tower in Gaffney, Georgia is a big peach…..and of course, the winner of the Most Phallic Building in 2003 is the Ypsilanti water tower.
Many of the old towers have long, spindly legs that remind me of the Martian invasion in the film "War Of The Worlds"...you'll see what I mean in the gallery below.
Others around the globe are shaped like flying saucers, ping pong balls, fishing bobbers, needles, mushrooms, and TV towers, to name a few.
I see some of these water towers today and wonder: how can that skinny base hold up that big ball of water without it toppling over onto the highway?
Take a look at some of Michigan’s classic old water towers in the gallery below. Aside from town water towers, there are railroad water towers, factory water towers, etc...See for yourself!
Michigan Water Towers
HERE ARE MORE VINTAGE MICHIGAN GALLERIES!