News & Issues

Repairs and Restoration of North Point Water Tower to be Completed in Spring 2017

UPDATE Dec. 2, 2016

The Milwaukee Water Works is reporting that its contractor found cracks in the stone finial during the carving process. A new piece had to be supplied and carved.

As a result, the cold weather now will not allow the work to proceed. Completion of the stone work including finials will proceed in the spring when weather permits, guessing mid-April. The upper portion of the tower is competed. There remains approximately 2 weeks of masonry work on the project. Soon the scaffolding and swing stage will be removed from the tower as that work is complete.



Exterior and interior repairs and restoration on the North Point Water Tower will be completed by Dec. 9, 2016, according to an Oct. 28  letter from Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie M. Lewis.

In the letter, Lewis says that repairs began May 9 and have included —

  • Interior: Tuck pointing, repairs and cleaning of brick; replacement of original cast iron floor plates with galvanized plates, and
  • Exterior: Masonry work, replacement of damaged brick, painting and sealing of wood windows.

At the end of the project, three new stone finials will be installed.

According to a fascinating Water Works history of the 175-foot water tower — which includes a photo of a cow, yes, a cow, grazing in front of the tower —  it was first put into service in September 1874.

Repairs underway this month (October 2016)

Repairs underway this month (October 2016)

“The decorative stonework of the tower housed a tall standpipe, open at the top, that absorbed pulsations of water from the reciprocating steam-driven engines in the pumping station below,” the history says. “The station and the tower served for 50 years as the sole source of lake water into the distribution system.”

Historic Water Tower Neighborhood greatly appreciates the maintenance and preservation work being done on our namesake and treasured city icon. We wish to thank Mayor Tom Barrett, DPW Commissioner Ghassan Korban, Superintendent Lewis and Ald. Nik Kovac for their support of making this possible.

Neighborhood’s Famous Frank Lloyd Wright “Bogk House” Featured in Journal Sentinel

wright wright-copyThe famous Frank Lloyd Wright “Bogk House,” one of our neighborhood’s unique historic homes, is featured in a recent edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The story features a photo gallery and an interview with one of the owners, Barbara Elsner, a devoted Wright advocate and a founder of Historic Water Tower Neighborhood.


Northpoint Magazine Covers HWTN-Area Utility Poles Issue

The August 2016 issue of Northpoint magazine includes a great summary of our June 1 board meeting with We Energies about the utility pole issue. The article is posted below.

We Energies Presents 
at Historic Water Tower Neighborhood June Monthly Meeting Historic Water Tower

Neighborhood’s Utility Expansion Committee invited We Energies to present its plans for the next phase of utility upgrades at HWTN’s monthly meeting.

The idea behind the meeting was to offer residents of historic districts the chance to learn more about the need for the planned upgrades, and how our historic districts and neighborhoods would be impacted.

David Effertz, Tiffany Tinsey and Thelma Sias at HWTN's June 1 meeting

David Effertz, Tiffany Tinsey and Thelma Sias at HWTN’s June 1 meeting

Residents of the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood, as well as concerned neighbors and citizens of other historic districts, filled the Marcia Coles room at the Lake Park Pavilion on June 1, 2016. David Effertz, We Energies Manager of Customer Service Engineering/ Design-Major Projects, gave a detailed presentation on the next phase of utility upgrades. He was accompanied by Thelma Sias, We Energies Vice President of Local Affairs.

Effertz presented a detailed explanation of the need for substantial utility upgrades affecting many of our historic streets. Among other reasons, residents learned that these upgrades are necessary due to the retirement of the Cambridge electrical substation and to the tremendous growth of the city. Many residents expressed deep concerns.

While supportive and excited about the city’s growth, members in attendance asked for We Energies to be mindful of the historic nature of their homes and neighborhood. They said they are looking for choices and greater communication.

Some shared concerns that power lines for busy streets like North and Prospect Avenues have been installed on parallel historic residential streets like Summit Avenue. Additional concerns were raised about the safety of above ground wires, the length of the new poles and forestry losses.

We Energies representatives answered the neighbors’ many questions as best they could and handed out their business cards welcoming additional questions. As in most monthly meetings, HWTN was fortunate to have the valued presence of their Alderman, Nik Kovac.

Tiffany Tinsey, Chair of the HWTN Utility Expansion Committee, said she was very encouraged by the line of communication established by WE Energies and the Water Tower district. She added that she hoped other utilities will follow. “Embracing growth while maintaining the integrity of our historic neighborhoods is a constant balancing act,” Tinsey said. “Today it’s utility poles, tomorrow‬‬‬‬‬ could be something else. Residents have a right to be informed and have a say in how these changes are implemented.”

Sally Peltz, President of HWTN said “This relatively new issue will remain on the agenda until our members believe that We Energies has given their historical neighborhood the care it’s required due to its celebrated character.”

The Historic Water Tower Neighborhood is hopeful that a direct line of communication with WE energies will continue to improve – realizing that as our city continues to grow, so should the lines of communication when our neighborhoods are impacted.

Historic Water Tower Neighborhood Mission Statements on Utility Expansions:
HWTN passed a resolution in February opposing “the use of commercial/industrial utility poles inside of our historic area” and calling on “the City of Milwaukee and We Energies to formalize a working partnership with HWTN in planning remediation of the existing damage” and “planning how to avoid further damage to this historic neighborhood as the We project moves further north through Historic Water Tower Neighborhood and the Downer Avenue area.” The Mission statement of the Utility Expansion Committee is to protect our historic district from continuing utility encroachment by seeking sustainable solutions for our city’s growing utility needs. Mission statement of HWTN “the preservation and enhancement of the unique residential character of the neighborhood.”

View We Energies’ June 1 Presentation on New Poles, Expansion Program

Top We Energies officials spoke and took questions at our June 1 meeting to address neighborhood concerns about new, larger utility poles being installed in the area.

Thelma Sias, Vice President-Local Affairs, and David Effertz, Manager-Customer Service Engineering/ Design-Major Projects, were invited to speak due to numerous concerns.

Here is a link to the presentation explaining We Energies’ construction activities in our area.



Repairs Begin on Historic North Point Water Tower, To Continue Through Summer or Fall

Repairs on the historic North Point Water Tower, an important city and neighborhood landmark, have just begun and will continue through summer or fall.

In a letter to Ald. Nik Kovac detailing the work to be done, Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie M. Lewis said the $245,760 project included removal and replacement of three stone finials, stone facade repairs, wood window restoration and replacement of existing floor plates.


Repair work starting in May 2016 on the North Point Water Tower


Lewis wrote the tower would not be covered in scaffolding, but that “work may require a traffic lane for equipment and supplies.”

Lewis also noted that the Water Works appreciated “the historic significance of this structure and received a Certificate of Appropriateness from the City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission for the work. All required repairs will match the existing material and architecture of the building.”

A city inspection of the water tower in October 2013 revealed three of its four finials had structural issues that could present a hazard below, and they were temporarily removed.

The repair plans can be viewed here.

According to city historic designation study, the 175-foot tower, which was completed in 1874 and has since been an important Milwaukee and neighborhood landmark, “is significant for its role in early community efforts to improve public sanitation, as an example of nineteenth century technology and as a purely functional device of above average architectural quality. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, recorded for the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1969, named a Milwaukee landmark in 1968, and selected as a national landmark of the American Water Works Association in 1969.”

Historical newspaper articles from 1895 through 1973 about the tower can be viewed on HWTN’s website.

HWTN would like to thank the City of Milwaukee for taking care of this important historic building by funding its needed repairs and following the preservation ordinance to make sure the work is done correctly. Thanks to Mayor Tom Barrett; Ald. Nik Kovac; the Department of Public Works and Commissioner Ghassan Korban; the Milwaukee Water Works and Superintendent Carrie M. Lewis; and the Historic Preservation Commission and Carlen Hatala.