“WGN Investigates – From Bucktown to downtown, water tanks have dotted the Chicago skyline for decades. Once there were thousands standing, but now there are only about 120 left.
While originally put up as fire suppression systems, the tanks are now mostly empty. Maintenance costs and safety concerns have forced building owners to tear many of them down over the years.
Ward Miller with Preservation Chicago sees the ones that remain as worth saving.
“These images that were so much a part of Chicago for generations are really fading fast,” Miller said. “There were ordinances in place to protect them and that was repealed due to the liability with these tanks.”
There was a push to help save the remaining water towers, but that changed in 2013, when one came crashing down in Lakeview. Ordinances were strengthened to make sure building owners were maintaining the tanks if they chose to keep them. The City now requires a critical exam be performed by a licensed structural engineer to make sure the tanks are safe about every two years. In most cases, building owners are choosing to demolish them instead of spending the dollars to keep them maintained.”