Sears Crosstown Part 5: Up in the Water Tower

We slowly made our way past floor after floor, winding around what sometimes seemed like endless stairways, up, up, up, towards the water tower. We were a few floors down from the tower when Lisa paused to tell us a bit about the history of the most iconic part of the Crosstown building. The air was still and a bit dense, which, she noted, was because we were standing at the center of the massive building.


Sears Crosstown water tower inside

Why a water tower? Well, it’s not just for looks (although it does look good, doesn’t it?).

Back in 1927 when Sears Crosstown was built, the fire department was too small be able to put out a fire should one start in the building. So they built a 75,000 gallon water tank on floors 12 through 15. The gravity fed sprinkler system that goes with it was only the second in the world!


“They built the water tank and then they built the tower structure around it. So either it stays or we have to dismantle it inside and take it down sheet by sheet,” Lisa explained when we asked her about the future of the tank when it comes to the building’s renovation. You can’t get up to it be elevator or anything like that, so it was pretty much just used for storage and fire suppression.


After a bit of history, Lisa prepped us for our visit to the tower, making sure we knew that it’s the tallest building within an eight-mile radius. I couldn’t wait to see that view!

We climbed and climbed, finally reaching the top of the tower. We were surprised to spot yet another small staircase going up even higher. Remember the Sears sign? Well, when lights needed to be changed out or anything like that on the sign, this is where the repairman would come. I hope he wasn’t afraid of heights.

Sears Crosstown water tower

We ran into a couple of head scratchers on the tour. One of them was all the sand in the tower. It was stored there for chemical fires, but with only a small stairway and no elevator for transport, it’s a bit of a mystery as to how they planned to actually get it to a fire in a timely manner should one of have occurred.

Sears Crosstown water tower

Sears Crosstown water tower

The tower was one of my favorite parts of the tour. The view was fantastic, and the warm red tower made the room feel like it was glowing in the late afternoon sun. A pretty magical place if you ask me!



Sears Crosstown water tower

Sears Crosstown water tower Lauren Reed
Courtesy of Lauren Reed


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By Caitlin L. Horton

Partner-in-crime for entrepreneurs and community builders getting their message out with thoughtful design and marketing.

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