Bissell / College Hill

Water Towers

The plant included a standpipe, which is the present Old Water Tower at 20th Street and East Grand Avenue, and the reservoir at Compton Hill. The tower on East Grand was placed in service in 1871, it was considered to be the largest perfect Corinthian column in existence, reaching a height of 154 feet. It was designed by George Ingham Barnett, the first St. Louis architect to receive training abroad. In the late 1920's, lights were placed on top of the Corinthian tower to serve as aviation beacons. They were extinguished during World War II as a security precaution and were reactivated in 1949 to guide flyers to Lambert Field. The lights are presently not in use and the tower itself has not been used for its original purpose for many years.

Another familiar landmark in this area is the so-called Red Water Tower at Bissell Street and Blair Avenue. This structure was erected to augment its older companion on East Grand Avenue, as a standpipe to counter the water surge from high service pumps at Bissell Point. It was built in 1887 at a cost of $79,798 after a design by architect W.S. Eames, who was then the assistant city water commissioner. The 206 foot high tower was created when new high service pumps were installed in the water works at Bissell Point.

After the Bissell Point plant was retired from service in 1960 its site was sold and subsequently became the location of the Metropolitan Sewer District's north sewage treatment plant, which began operations in 1970. A portion of the site is occupied by a city incinerator and garage.

The two north side water towers, as well as the one at Compton Hill, have been declared to be local and national landmarks and represent nearly half of all such surviving structures in the nation. Admirers of the north side towers have successfully resisted efforts to raze them and some funds are reported to be available for their restoration.

Image - Old water tower at East Grand and 20th St.