Completed in 1928, the octagonal tower is located at the corner of Snelling Avenue and Highland Parkway, adjacent to the Highland Park National Golf Course and the Charles M. Schulz Ice Arena. Although its water supply was stopped in 2017, it is the only architecturally significant water tower in the city and an important neighborhood landmark.
The plaque at the west entrance lists Frank X. Tewes, who oversaw Wigington as the tower’s architect. However, Wingington’s initials on the project drawings provide evidence that he was its designer. In 1928, along with multiple local schools, St. Paul’s Auditorium as well. The tower is in the Mediterranean Revival style, which is an unusual architectural style for a water tower. It was among the many revival styles favored by proponents of the Beautiful City movement (1890s-1900s) because it emphasized building beautiful public buildings and structures.
At 134 feet tall, the Highland Park Water Tower consists of three parts: a base, a shaft, and an observation deck. The plinth made of neatly worked randomly cut Kasota stone has two entrances, one on the north side and one on the west side of the building. The shaft is of bronze, pressed-face brick, and the observation deck is made of cut-cut Bedford stone. The roof is decorated with terracotta tiles and a small dome. Notable design elements include stone tusks, shields, downpipes and lion head reliefs that adorn all eight sides of the observatory.
Work began on the structure in 1927, and the tower cost $69,483 to build. It was built by the Feyen Construction Company and William Selby. Wilcox Cut Stone Company provided the stone and St. Paul Foundry Company supplied the steel for the tank. A circular staircase with 151 steps leading to the observation deck surrounds a 200,000-gallon capacity riveted, steel-plate tank.
The tower served the western part of the city, north of West Seventh Avenue, until it was decommissioned in 2017. Water was pumped from a reservoir to the tower and gravity-fed the nearly 9,000 homes in the service area. As the city grew, so did the demand for water, and two underground reservoirs with a total capacity of 28 million gallons were built both north and south of the tower. The Highland Water Tanks, two new steel water towers built in 1959 and 1989, are located just northeast of the tower. They have a total capacity of 2.5 million gallons. In 2014, the southern reservoir was decommissioned and demolished in 2021.
The tower was designated an American Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association in 1981 and is one of more than 150 such landmarks in North America. In 1986 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as important to the history of architecture and engineering.
II. Around World War II, the Highland Park Water Tower was closed to the public and remained so until 1976. Today, St. Paul Regional Water Service and open to the public on two special neighborhood occasions: the annual Highland Fest. observing autumn leaves in summer and October. Virtual images from the observation deck offering panoramic views of the Twin Cities are available online.
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