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Public Art

Grand Avenue Water Tower

By George I. Barnett
Category: Miscellaneous


Described as “the only perfect Corinthian column of its size in the world,” the Grand “Old White” Water Tower on 20th Street and Grand Avenue was built during the waterworks expansion led by Thomas Whitman (brother of poet Walt Whitman) following the Civil War. The 154-foot tower, designed by architect George I. Barnett, was completed in 1871 at a cost of $45,000. The tower is constructed of a brick shaft resting on a Chicago stone base and octagonal stone platform, topped with an iron capital cast in a leaf design. It was retired from service in 1912.

In the 1920s and 30s, beacons placed atop the tower served as navigational aids to pilots seeking Lambert International Airport. Legend has it that Charles Lindbergh once used the lights to find his way home when he was lost in a Mississippi River fog. In 1933, after citizens objected to a recommendation that the monument be torn down, Mayor Bernard Dickmann came to the tower’s defense. “To wreck this tower would, to my mind, verge closely on an act of sacrilege,” the Mayor declared.

Courtesy of the City of St. Louis Water Division.

Dimensions: 154′
Year Completed: 1871
Material: Brick, stone, cast iron
Owner: City of St. Louis

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