Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Water Towers in NYC

I don't know if you've ever taken a minute to look up and notice the water towers all over NYC. Well, if you haven't, now you will see them wherever you go. I started noticing them about 2 years ago when I was looking for apartments in Manhattan for the very first time. I peppered my real estate broker with questions about them, since I had never seen them before. He didn't know anything about them, and seemed rather perplexed about why I was so curious.

Now, whenever I spot one, it's like a game of where's waldo. I instantly start to notice the others dotted around the skyline atop buildings. Apparently it all started in the 1800's when NYC started requiring that water towers be built atop all buildings over 6 stories to prevent the need for high pressure systems at low elevations that result in burst pipes and messy situations for the fire department to deal with. The reason that you don't see them on top of every building is that many buildings created facades or glorified little boxes around the tower to help the tower blend with the rest of the building.

In 2006, Tribeca still required water towers atop all buildings. There are only 2 companies that make water towers in NYC, both evolved from family owned barrel making businesses starting when the need for water towers arose with the height of the city. An interesting fact that I found on wikipedia is that no sealant is used in these towers, but a barrel making technique of wood strapped together by cables. When the tower is first filled, the water drips out around the edges of the wood planks, but once the wood becomes totally saturated it expands, closing off the gaps and sealing the tower. The top portion of the water is used for drinking water for the building and the rest is held in reserve for fires. Once the water level drops below a certain line, a pump kicks into a public water line and fills the tower back up.

I don't know why I find this so fascinating, but I do. I am quite sad that my building only has 5 floors so I can't pop onto the roof and get a look at a tower, up close and personal.

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