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This historic water tower was in operation from 1894 to 1963 and now serves as the home of the city's visitor center. The history of the structure dates back to 1891, when the city commissioned Chicago architect George Washington Maher to design a new water tower for the city of Fresno. His design was influenced by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, a famous and destructive event that destroyed the Chicago Public Library but not the Chicago Water Tower. Recalling that the water tower in Chicago acted as a temporary library, Maher's original design called for a library and a third floor to be built within the tower. Construction finished in November 1894 but Maher's vision of housing a library in the tower was never realized. The water tower remained in use until 1963 when its pumping equipment had become inadequate.


  • The tower was in operation from 1894 to 1963 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The Old Fresno Water Tower was designed by Chicago architect George Washington Maher and completed in 1894. Maher lived through the great Chicago fire and recalled that the fire destroyed the city's library but not its water tower. Accordingly, Maher designed the Fresno tower with second and third floors, which were to be used as a library, but this plan never came to fruition and while the building does have a second floor the third floor was never completed.

The tower was designed in a Romanesque style and stands 100 feet tall and has a capacity of 250,000 gallons. The tower has an inner wall that is over two feet thick and an outer wall that is fourteen inches thick. There is a passage between the two walls that is about three feet wide.

The water tower was in operation from 1894 to 1963, when the pumping machinery was no longer adequate. In 2001, the second floor was removed and the interior of the tower remodeled so that it could serve as a visitor's center for the city of Fresno. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

Old Fresno Water Tower (1894). A Guide to Historic Architecture in Fresno, California. Accessed July 28, 2017. http://historicfresno.org/nrhp/wtrtwr.htm.