Home | Experience the Arts | Public Art Directory | Bissell Water Tower

Public Art

Bissell Water Tower

By William S. Eames
Category: Miscellaneous

About

The Bissell “New Red” Water Tower was built in 1885-86 from design plans by Deputy Building Commissioner William S. Eames, a founder of the St. Louis chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It was completed at a cost of $79,798 and was in service until 1912. Constructed from red brick, light gray stone and terra cotta, the tower stands 194 feet high and is located at Bissell Street and Blair Avenue. The interior of the tower once contained a spiral staircase that led to a balcony at the top, but that staircase has since been removed.

The tower, in the words of one writer, “exudes a kind of Victorian seriousness, lofty but solid,” and its appearance has often been likened to a Moorish minaret. Some of the residences in the circle surrounding the tower appear to have been influenced by the structure’s architectural style. When Water Commissioner Conway Briscoe suggested in 1958 that the tower be dismantled rather than spend money on repairs, he ran headlong into sentimental opposition from Donald Gunn, President of the Board of Aldermen. “I was raised within a block of that tower and used to run around it in my bare feet,” Gunn said, killing the demolition proposal and summing up the emotional attachment many neighborhood preservationists express toward the tower.

After falling into dangerous disrepair in the early 1960s, there was another attempt to tear it down. However, an investigation showed that restoring the tower would not be significantly more expensive than razing it. The Bissell “New Red” Water Tower was renovated in the 1970s with a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which was matched by the City. It has since served as an important landmark for North St. Louis.

Courtesy of the City of St. Louis Water Division

Dimensions: 194′
Year Completed: 1885-86
Material: Brick, stone, terra cotta
Owner: City of St. Louis


About the artist:

Arts and cultural events are waiting around every corner throughout the St. Louis region. Explore the abundant creativity our area has to offer. From gallery shows and performances to public installations, St. Louis is rich with culture and the arts in all forms. Browse these links to experience our arts community firsthand.

EXPLORE THE ARTS

Due to the ongoing financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) has been working diligently to adjust our annual grantmaking programs to ensure alignment with RAC’s strategic priorities, and in response to feedback from the arts community.

READ OUR MESSAGE

We have gathered a variety of news, information, and other resources to sustain the health and vibrancy of our arts community.

EXPLORE OUR RESOURCES

As the leading public catalyst for arts and culture in St. Louis, the Regional Arts Commission leverages the power of creativity to strengthen and enrich our community. Read our commitment to diversity, racial equity, accessibility, and inclusion, and see our strategic plan for the next five years.

LEARN MORE ABOUT RAC

Covid-19 has impacted us all. But what it hasn’t changed is RAC’s commitment to finding innovative ways to support arts programming, arts organizations, and individual artists through the pandemic, and to resuming these programs as soon as conditions allow.

VIEW ALL OUR INFORMATION RELATED TO COVID-19

Skip to content