Ypsilanti Water Tower
Location Name: Ypsilanti Water Tower (Ypsilanti, Michigan)
Location Type: Landmark (Water Tower)
Year Completed: 1890
Architect(s): William R. Coats
The Ypsilanti Water Tower was designed by William R. Coats as part of an elaborate city waterworks project that began in 1889. The location for the tower was chosen because it sits upon the highest ground in the city. From this point, gravity could bring residents water from the top of the tower down to the individual homes below. The energy of the water falling from the 250,000 gallon reservoir inside the tower was used to generate electricity for the city street lamps at night.
Completed in 1890 in an austere version of the Queen Anne style, the structure cost just over $21,000. The costs were funded through a fee levied on residents based on the number of faucets in their homes; along with some other factors. Constructed of Joliet limestone, the thickness of the masonry walls varies from forty inches near the base to twenty-four inches near the top. Masons who built the walls strayed from the original plans and placed at least four crosses into the design of the stonework; this was due to the superstition that the crosses would project the workers from injury during the project. In 1928, a marble bust of Demetrius Ypsilanti (a hero of Greek independence, and the namesake of the City of Ypsilanti) was placed near the base of the tower.
Today, the Ypsilanti Water Tower serves as a historic icon for the City of Ypsilanti and the nearby Eastern Michigan University. In use for well over a century, the structure is not only known for its importance in waterworks history, but also as an unmistakable landmark for the area. Locals and college students have made the Water Tower legendary with jokes relating to the phallic shape of the structure. Cabinet magazine voted the tower the World’s Most Phallic Building in 2003; further legitimizing the tower’s humorous reputation.
The Ypsilanti Water Tower was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.Sources