Gold Coast offers a quiet but stately home both to affluent young families and established professionals alike since 1882, but that doesn’t mean the neighborhood is lacking in fun things to do! The Gold Coast neighborhood in Chicago is bursting with history, from its architecture to its cultural contributions, even to the physical objects that have made its way through the years.

The neighborhood itself really came to life shortly after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, serving as the home to businessmen such as Potter Palmer (Palmer House), the Chicago Tribune founder Joseph Medill, and even Robert Todd Lincoln. Here are just a few of the most notable landmarks that have played an integral part of Gold Coast’s history, and why it serves as such an attractive neighborhood to so many families even today:

The Old Chicago Water Tower
Built in 1869, the Old Chicago Water Tower is currently the second oldest water tower in the United States, after the Louisville Water Tower in Louisville, Kentucky. Although the city of Chicago rests near Lake Michigan, a critical source for freshwater, the water quality prior to the building of the Old Chicago Water Tower was poor, having been drawn from the Chicago River, which also served as Chicago’s sewer. As such, the water was bad-tasting and disease-ridden.

To fix this, engineer Ellis S. Chesbrough planned a water supply tunnel that would span about two miles, and after the tunnel’s completion in 1867, the lake water would be pumped back to the lake via a pumping station. The pumping station originally produced pressure surges in the water, so a standpipe system (the Old Chicago Water Tower) was added two years later to reduce its effects.

Today, Chicago no longer needs the services of its old water tower, and is able to support all of its residents’ water needs. But, rather than knocking it down, the city of Chicago elected to keep the building standing, as it gives a peek into the history of the city. The tower even hosts a gallery showcasing the work of local photographers and artists. It serves as a visual reminder to the resilient attitude of Chicago as a city, as one of the few buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The current City Gallery’s exhibition is Stand Up for Landmarks! Protests, Posters, and Pictures, which devotes itself to the story of public activism, outreach efforts, and legislation of protecting landmarks throughout Chicago.

This blog is part one of a two-part series. Check back for the second post featuring the Newberry Library and Washington Square Park!