THE NORTH PARK WATER TOWER. Iconic. Historic. Big. Really big. Built in 1924 from state-of-the-art riveted steel plates, it stands over 140 feet high from the base of its 12 steel girder legs to the top of its cone roof. It can be seen from the California Tower in Balboa Park and Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park. Claimed to be the “largest elevated tank in the world” when constructed, it held more than one million gallons of water, assuring a growing mid-city of plentiful supply at suitable pressure for neighborhood uses, including fire protection. Although decommissioned and empty since the 1990s, it still looms large at an active water supply center operated by the City of San Diego south of El Cajon Boulevard between Oregon and Idaho Street. Soccer enthusiasts at that location may be surprised to learn they are playing on top of a concrete walled reservoir that holds up to 5 million gallons of water for today’s neighborhoods.
Through the efforts of the North Park Historical Society, the Water Tower has been designated as historically important nationally and locally. In 2015, the American Society of Civil Engineers designated it as a local historic civil engineering landmark to honor its robust and unique design, towering presence, and contribution to San Diego’s early urban growth. Its unique presence has inspired artists in media from paint to pixels, and its image has been applied to every canvas imaginable, including the human body. Go out to North Park Community Park at Howard Avenue and Idaho Street for a close-up view of the Water Tower and see if you are inspired to create your own art piece based on one of North Park’s most beloved icons.