Compton Heights Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development
The Compton Heights neighborhood is bounded by Nebraska on the East, Shenandoah on the South, Grand Boulevard on the West, and I-44 on the North.
Compton Heights occupies the northwest corner of what was previously the St. Louis Commons, which was set aside by settlers for communal grazing of livestock. Its initial land partition was received in 1860 and development began a few decades later. The large homes that are most notable in Compton Heights were erected in the late 1880s and early 1890s. A majority of these homes were built by wealthy families of German descent. One of the neighborhood’s most interesting features is the set of restrictions created for the land on which these homes were built. Buildings are to be set back from the street, be distanced from adjacent buildings, with further restrictions forbidding the use of any commercial business or rental flats on the property. There are fence restrictions, minimum building cost restrictions, and strict rules governing lot grade changes. These restrictions were permanently instated in the late 1880s, and continue until this day—but not without challenge. Enforcing these codes was the Compton Heights Improvement Company, which dissolved in 1899 to become the Compton Heights Improvement Association.
One of the neighborhood’s most outstanding features is the Compton Hill Tower, which may be seen from distant areas within the city. Designed by architect George Mann and completed during the William McKinley presidency, the tower was built in the French Romanesque style, towering above the neighborhood at a height of 180 feet. Its construction consists of limestone, bluff brick, and terra cotta. The comparably high elevation of the area allowed the water tower and reservoir to distribute approximately 56 million gallons of water by means of gravity to the City east of Grand Boulevard. The water tower was built to accommodate the existing water delivery system as the city grew in population. Compton Hill Reservoir Park was created around the tower, which boasts Wilhelm Wandschneider’s statue "The Naked Truth". The Compton Hill Tower was declared a city landmark in 1966. In 1972, the tower was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. Over the years, the tower began to experience deterioration. The steel staircase within its interior began to weather, as well as the stone work and roofing structure. Within the last few years, the Tower was restored to its original condition and continues to be a symbol of pride for Compton Heights and adjacent neighborhoods.