History falls from the sky and sends water and wood on those below


Yesterday as people walked passed the Brewster building, in the Lakeview area, on the northwest corner of Pine Grove Ave and Diversey Parkway in Chicago, a wooden water tank came crashing down. It was a few minutes before 10 am. People shrieked as the 10 to 13 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter water tank toppled off the 120 year old building. Falling eight stories, it spewed water and splintered wood on those unfortunate to be walking by at the time.

Three people were injured and all are thought to recover. The tower was 1 of about 90 still in use. The Brewster tank supplied the domestic water for the building. Chicago has 178 roof top water towers. They are considered landmarks and require a 90 demolition permit in order to give the city a chance to save them. They are Chicago icons.

At the moment it appears that the reason for the failure and collapse is due to maintenance issues and not to any danger posed by wooden water towers. Many new roof top water towers continue to be built to this day with wood. While steel is sometimes used, wood it the preferred medium. It is naturally watertight.

An investigation is underway to ascertain the reason for the Brewster tank’s failure and if any action will be needed for other buildings in Chicago that still have rooftop water tanks.