Ypsi’s water tower, and its missing whatsit

My friend Eric sent me a huge photo of Ypsilanti’s infamous water tower yesterday. The image, which is beautiful, was taken in 1900, when women carried parasols, and Cross Street was still a dirt road scarred by wagon tracks. It’s an amazing photo. The structure was just ten years old at the time, having been completed for $21,435.63 in 1890. Here, from Wikipedia, is a little more background:

An ordinance passed on April 14, 1898 established a yearly rate schedule for residences with running water. Rates were based on the number of faucets in use, the type of business that customers operated and the livestock they owned. A residence with one tap was charged $5.00 and a private bathtub cost an additional $2.00. Saloon keepers paid $7.00 for one faucet, $3.00 for each additional faucet and $1.00 for each billiard table. Each cow a person owned cost $1.00. People who failed to pay their bill were subject to a $50.00 fine and ninety days in the county jail.

And here’s the photo:


Do you notice that little observation area at the top of the shaft? It’s not there now. At least I don’t think it’s there now… unless it’s somehow retractable. Maybe it just pops out when the conditions are right, like when a warm breeze caresses the tip just right. I suspect, however, that it was trimmed off at some point – a kind of architectural circumcision, if you will. Anyway, I’m now curious as to what happened, and why it was removed. I imagine that, as the water tower is built on the highest point in the City, the observation area was used for the spotting of fires and the like, but I’m not sure. If anyone knows, leave a comment.

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t take a photo of the tower in its current state. Photographing water towers these days is apparently illegal.

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  1. Robert
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    That thing is so ugly, I would be worried that terrorists might build another one just like it right next to it.

  2. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I’ll bet Laura Bien over at the Archives/Dusty Diary would know….

  3. Posted September 26, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I bet it was a lot easier to cross the street there then than it is now. Every time we cross there I worry for my life (not to mention how stressful it is with the kids in tow).

  4. Taco Tom
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I like the horse droppings on the dirt version of Washtenaw. A different time, for sure.

  5. Edward
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Looks a lot less cock-like with the little gazebo on top. Maybe the hedonists of the 1970’s had it removed for that reason.

  6. Ken
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Definitely less penis-looking with a cupola on top. Maybe they can rebuild it.

  7. Steve Swan
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Gazebo On My Cock is one of my all time favorite GG Allin songs.

  8. Knox
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I believe that’s the space capsule that Jor-El had made for his son, Kal-El. It was jettisoned on the day Mark Maynard moved to Ypsilanti.

  9. Alice
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    It’s a Mosque!

  10. Steve Swan
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    I like that the shaft has holes for piercings.

  11. Posted September 27, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I posted this picture (and a link, of course) to EMUTalk.org, and there is some debate as to what the building is in the background. McKenny? Welch? Something else? Anybody know?

  12. dragon
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Taken around the turn of the last century, this photograph is a part of the Detroit Publishing Company’s collection at the Library of Congress. The photographer is standing on Washtenaw Avenue facing slightly north and to the west. On the right edge of the frame, we see one of the remaining historic buildings on Eastern Michigan University’s campus, Welch Hall.

  13. Mike Shecket
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t there a door on the water tower? Can people go in? Who has the keys? YCUA?

  14. dragon
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    The Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority has operated and maintained the structure since 1974. It is only open to the public one day a year during the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival.

  15. soundman
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    the top of the water tower is cut out (open-air) at the very tip so it’s quite doubtful that it was an “observation area”. it was probably just there to slightly cover the water as an aesthetic thing.

    if i had to guess why it’s no longer there i would go for either:
    a) destroyed from storm/lightning/tornado
    b) removed when the antennas (police, etc) went in

  16. ROV
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t that what they call a reservoir tip?

  17. Face
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Great copulating pergolas, Batman!

  18. Elmer
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    It’s called a reservoir tip.

One Trackback

  1. By Jim’s Brain Online » Kentwood Water Tower Followup on September 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    […] Ed in trouble. Flickr Group: Photography is Not a Crime Slashdot: I submitted this one. Vote it up. Mark Maynard: There’s a reference near the end of the post. Cyburbia The Grand Rapids Flickr […]

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