Saturday, November 10, 2007

Photos of the Compton Hill Water Tower

HERE ARE PHOTOS OF and from the Compton Hill Water Tower, in Saint Louis, Missouri.

This tower was completed in 1898 and was not for water storage, but instead is a standpipe. The giant steam pumps of the Victorian era produced tremendous water pressure during a part of the pumping cycle, and these standpipes moderated the flow. Modern turbine pumps now produce an even flow of water, so towers such as these are no longer needed. Of the seven standpipe water towers remaining in the United States, three are in Saint Louis.

The tower was designed by legendary architect and furniture designer Harvey Ellis, who was known for his imaginative and romantic designs in the Romanesque and American Queen Anne styles. He was also a severe alcoholic, and eventually a Catholic convert, dying in 1904 at the age of 52.

I took this photo from Compton Hill, one of the highest points of the City, and home to water storage tanks, hidden behind a decorative wall.

Click here for a history and for photos of the other towers:

A view up the inside of the tower. There are 198 wrought-iron steps, spiraling around the standpipe.

A view down the inside of the tower. The climb to the top is actually much easier than it may be imagined, because the stairs are not steep, and there are a number of places like this where climbers may rest. The walls display old photos of the tower construction and waterworks.

Photo of an old steam pump. Note the Gothic frame of the engine! The fact that pre-Modern engineering was both useful and beautiful has led to the creation of a whole genre of science fiction — steampunk — that depicts plausibly advanced fictionalized technology of the Victorians, such as steam-powered computers and airships, but made in that era's fanciful and beautiful manner.

Adjacent to the tower is a reservoir. This otherwise utilitarian structure has an attractive staircase leading to the top. Originally, the entire basin was covered with concrete and had tennis courts on top.

Downtown Saint Louis. Longtime readers of Rome of the West may have noticed that I usually give driving distances relative to downtown; more precisely, they are distances from near the right leg of the Gateway Arch as seen in this photo, at the Old Cathedral.

The Saint Louis State Hospital, dating from 1869; its dome is inspired by Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Saint Margaret of Scotland Church.

The Jefferson Barracks Bridge, in Saint Louis County, crosses the Mississippi River, while a hot-air balloon hovers overhead.

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