What is going on with Chicago's water towers?
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The much loved former water tower in Andersonville, painted with the Swedish Flag ipeeks out behind rooftops
The old Andersonville water tower. Detail from photo by TheeErin

All about Water Towers

Chicago's rooftop wooden towers add character and a sense of history to Chicago's skyline, but they are expensive to maintain and can become structurally hazardous.  

Our new map shows all water tower demolitions, renovations, signs added to towers, and telecommunications added to towers. It does not show the location of all water towers, only water towers with associated building or demolition permits. The map also tells you if it was issued before or after November 2014, when the Commission on Chicago Landmarks announced that they would no longer review permit applications relating to the structures, prompting some to think that it is now "open season" on water towers.

Data is from February 2007 to August 2015, and information about individual projects is available in each info window for each data point and also on Chicago Cityscape's searchable building permits page.

The Andersonville water tower (top photo) was a neighborhood landmark, but it was damaged in the 2014 polar vortex and needed to be demolished. The Swedish American Museum has a fundraising campaign to build a replica.

Many other water towers are or were not so well loved. a handful are restored, with costs ranging from $2,000 up to $80,000, but the vast majority of building permits issued for water towers are demolition permits. Some towers remain useful, since a few are used for signs and others support telecommunications hardware. 

Are water towers doomed? You decide.

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This week's '1909' newsletter was written by Samantha Kearney.  
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