The Chicago Water Tower is a contributing property in the Old Chicago Water Tower District landmark district. It is located on North Michigan Avenue along the Magnificent Mile shopping district area of Chicago, Illinois. The tower was constructed to house a large water pump, intended to draw water from the Lake Michigan; it now serves as a Chicago Office of Tourism art gallery. The Chicago Water Tower is the second-oldest water tower in the United States, after the Louisville Water Tower in Louisville, Kentucky.
The tower, built in 1869 by architect William W. Boyington from yellowing Joliet limestone, is 154 feet (47 m) tall. Inside was a 138 foot (42 m) high standpipe to hold water. In addition to being used for firefighting, the pressure in the pipe could be regulated to control water surges in the area. Together with the adjacent Chicago Avenue Pumping Station, it drew clean water from water cribs in Lake Michigan.
The tower gained prominence after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. While some incorrectly believe that the tower was the only building to survive the fire, a few other buildings in the burned district survived along with the tower.The tower was the only public building in the burned zone to survive, and is one of just a few of the surviving structures still standing. In the years since the fire, the tower has become a symbol of old Chicago and of the city's recovery from the fire. In 1918, when Pine Street was widened, the plans were altered in order to give the Water Tower a featured location.
The structure has not been universally admired. Oscar Wilde said it looked like "a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it," although he did admire the arrangement and movement of the pumping machinery inside. The Water Tower's castle-like style did inspire the design of many White Castle restaurant buildings. The Tower was named an American Water Landmark in 1969.