Designed by William W. Boyington and completed in 1869, the Water Tower's corner stone was laid two years earlier as the culmination of a grand parade, as described to the right. A January 1870 receipt, signed by Boyington is presented courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.


Twenty years later, during a vastly different cultural moment, Oscar Wilde, in the city to deliver a lecture entitled "The English Renaissance," famously offended Chicagoans by referring to the beloved structure as a "castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it."

Chicago Daily Tribune
, February 14, 1882

Chicago Daily Tribune, February 15, 1882

Chicago Daily Tribune, July 26, 1866

Chicago Daily Tribune, March 23, 1867

            At last the tunnel is finished – or will be on Monday. We refer not now to any of the theoretical finishings over which the parties concerned have jubilated, but to the practical finish – that in which the people are interested – the accomplishment of the much desired result – the supplying of pure water to the citizens in place of the miserable filth miscalled water with which we have been served for years past. It is a circumstance much to be rejoiced over, a denouement worthy of the great labor, the deep skill, the high hope, extensive faith and heavy payments which have necessarily preceded it. It will bear to be talked about, to be pleased with, to brag of – though it seems it is not deemed worthy of a public banquet. It will materially enhance the average life of the people of this city, will remove one standing and much magnified objection which the people of other cities have urged against Chicago, and will abolish one extensive excuse for tippling whereat the temperance people will be exceedingly glad. When urging the claims of pure cold water to the patronage of the people, they have many a time and oft been met with the question, “What must I drink?” “You would not have me drink our filthy water, would you?”

            The first flow of pure lake water through the pipes and hydrants of the city, will be accompanied by the laying of the corner stone of the new Water Works Building, and will be the occasion of a grand procession. The stone will be laid by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F.&A.M., after which an oration will be delivered by his honor Mayor Rice.
March 25, 1867, during the laying of the Water Tower cornerstone at the culmination of the parade.

Photograph by John Carbutt. Half of stereoview.

Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago Water Works Collection, 1860s-1870s..

March 26, 1867: copy of the twenty-member Great Union Band's receipt for their performance at the laying of the Water Works corner stone. They charged one dollar extra for the Leader.
Chicago Daily Tribune, March 25, 1867
            The following official order, from the Chief Marshal of the procession, contains a summary of the proceedings which will be carried out to-day on the occasion of the formal inauguration of the great Lake Tunnel, and the laying of the cornerstone of the new Water Works on the lake shore at the foot of Chicago avenue in the North Division:

PROGRAMME OF ARRANGEMENTS for laying the corner stone of the new buildings for the Chicago Water Works, March 25, A.D. 1867 (A.L. 5867).

The procession will be formed in the following order:
Platoon of Police.
Light Guard Band.
Apollo Commandery Knights’ Templars.
Subordinate Lodges of F.&A.M. in the following order:
Tylers, with drawn swords.
Master Masons.
Secretary and Treasurer.
M.W. Grand Lodge F.&A.M., State of Illinois
Grand Tyler with Drawn Sword.
Grand Stewards.
Principal Architect, with Square, Level and Plumb.
Grand Chaplains.
Past Grand Officers.
Junior Grand Warden, with Silver Vessel of Oil.
Senior Grand Warden, with Silver Vessel of Wine.
Deputy Grand Master, with Silver Vessel of Corn.
Master of the Oldest Lodge, carrying Book of Constitutions.
M.W. Grand Master, supported by Deacons and Rods.
Grand Standard Bearer.
Grand Sword Bearer, with Drawn Sword.
Great Union Band.
Chicago Commandery of Knights Templars.
Ellsworth Zouaves as Guard of Honor to Civil Division.
His Honor, the Mayor, as Orator of the Day.
Commissioners of the Board of Public Works.
Secretary of the Board.
City Engineer and First Assistant.
City Engineer Pumping Department.
Contractors Lake Tunnel.
Contractors of Machinery and Buildings.
Judges of the United States Court and other United States Officers.
Judiciary of the City of Chicago.
Heads of Departments of the City of Chicago and Principal Assistants.
Members of the Common Council.
Members of the Press.
Board of Education.
Police Board.
Officers and Principal Assistants Connected with Board of Public Works
Ex-Water and Police Commissioners.
Quackenbush Collegiate Guard.
Chicago Fire Department.


Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, Chicago Water Works Collection, 1860s-1870s..

January 1870 receipt for the pumping station's roof repair. Signed by W.W. Boyington, the buildings' architect.

(continued from left)
The Masonic Division will form in front of Masonic Temple on Dearborn Street, the right resting on Randolph street; will march thence north on Dearborn street to Lake street, west on Lake street to LaSalle street, south on LaSalle street to Washington street, and east on Washington street to Wells street, south on Wells street to Washington street, and east on Washington street to Clark street, where they will be joined by the Civic Division; thence north on Clark street to Chicago avenue, east on Chicago avenue to Pine street, and north on Pine street to centre of block, where the column will open to the right and left, and allow the Grand Lodge, His Honor the Mayor, the Board of Public Works and principal officers, the Contractors, the Judiciary, members of the Common Council and heads of City Departments to pass the platform.
           The rear of the procession will close up and form around the platform.
           The corner stone will be laid with the usual ceremonies at high twelve. His Honor Mayor Rice will deliver the address.
           Returning the procession will form in precisely the same order as above, and march to the points from whence it started.
           All associations in the city, and the citizens at large, are cordially invited to participate in the ceremonies.
           Masonic bodies will form at the Masonic Temple, other associatons and societies who wish to join in the procession by giving information to the Marshals at the Briggs House before 9 o’clock will be assigned a place in the procession, and are requested to be at the Court House.
           City authorities will form on Washington street, right resting on Dearborn street. Fire Department on Washington street, right resting on LaSalle street. All will be ready to move at 10 o’clock.
           The undersigned have the assurance from the Board of Public Works that every available workman will be put on at an early hour this morning to clean the route of the procession. The obstacle of dirty streets bring to a great extent removed it is earnestly hoped that all the organizations on the programme will be out in full force and do credit to this great occasion in our local history..