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The North Point Tower - A Milwaukee Icon

The iconic and beloved North Point Tower on the bluff above Lake Michigan is symbolic of over 140 years of service provided by the Milwaukee Water Works. It was part of the first water works that began pumping in 1874 and it remained in service until 1963. The tower, at 2288 N. Lake Dr. at North Avenue, houses an open standpipe that absorbed pulsations of water from steam-driven engines in the pumping station below the hill on the lakeshore.

Often praised for its beauty, the structure is a notable example of the Victorian Gothic style, fanciful and charming, designed by architect Charles A. Gombert. The 175-foot tower is executed in cream-colored Wauwatosa cut limestone, its rock-faced walls backed with Milwaukee Cream City Brick and trimmed with dressed limestone.

The tower has been recognized by the Milwaukee Landmarks Commission (1968), the Historic American Building Survey (1969), National Landmark of the American Water Works Association (1969), National Register of Historic Places (1973), and City of Milwaukee Historic Designation (1986).

"By virtue of its appearance and its historical association, it is symbolic of Milwaukee’s traditionally bountiful water supply. This structure possesses the integrity of original location, original workmanship, and many intangible elements of feeling and association extending back into the history of the City of Milwaukee."
-- Former MWW Superintendent Elmer W. Becker, 1974

A View From the Top

These are photos taken by retired MWW Water Plant Maintenance Supervisor John Schmidt. The 213-step steel staircase is not large enough or strong enough to handle and support heavy traffic. We hope you enjoy the view from the top.

The iconic North Point Tower overlooks Lake Michigan from the east end of North Avenue

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2018 Interior Restoration Completed
Inspections had found the original iron standpipe, four feet in diameter and 120 feet tall, was corroded and required reinforcement so it would not fall and break through the decorative brick walls of the tower.large green vertical pipe
A metal connection was installed between the riser pipe and a new reinforcing collar. A connection was installed between the existing joists and new concrete. Permeable stone fill was placed to the top of the existing abandoned water mains in the lower level and the concrete floor has been poured at the lower level.

Reinforcing angles and hardware to repair the stair treads on the interior staircase were installed and reinforced as necessary for maintenance access. The 142-year-old staircase is not sound enough for tour traffic, and for liability reasons, only City of Milwaukee employees preparing to perform maintenance are allowed to climb the stairs. Steel plates were fabricated for a floor at the entrance level. 

The general contractor followed plans approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.

Plans call for returning the weather vane to the roof when roofing restoration and repair is contracted in 2019. DPW currently has no funding for the weather vane work. The 2018 Department of Public Works capital budget provides $50,000 for design of the roof repair and creation of construction documents. A request for $500,000 has been submitted to the 2019 DPW capital budget to repair and restore the roof and weather vane, with the work to be bid in 2019 or 2020. 

Restoration List click for detail

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