In October 1871 when the Great Chicago Fire flattened most of Chicago, Block 21's two year old Water Tower remained famously unscathed. Views from its top documented the obliterated landscape. Even before the fire's destruction, the ragged and ever-changing Lake Michigan shoreline added and subtracted from property owners' lake frontage. Legend has it that in 1886 George Wellington Streeter's boat hit a sandbar near the foot of Superior Street. Thus began thirty years of land claims, law suits, and ongoing newspaper coverage, all while various forms of dumping created what would soon become some of Chicago's most valuable real estate. Block 21 belonged to the city, but as surrounding land extended eastward, the Lincoln Park Commissioners acquired and extended the block-wide strip to meet the new Lake Shore Drive, an extension of Lincoln Park.

Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1895

Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.
This emulsion damaged 1910 photograph from the Chicago Daily News collection is a northeast view from the top of the Water Tower. Although still barren, the landscape has been filled to nearly match its current configuration. The new Lake Shore Drive, built to connect Lincoln Park to Pine Street (today's Michigan Avenue) is in the northern distance. The large building in the foreground stands on the site of today's John Hancock Center.