The Ypsilanti water tower, which goes by many names, stands tall at the highest point of elevation in the city: the intersection of Cross and Summit streets.
Constructed in 1890 in the Queen Anne architectural style and designed by William R. Coats, the limestone structure is celebrating its 130th birthday on Monday, Feb. 3.
The tower was built as part of an elaborate water works project and served a dual purpose: providing water to citizens and, via the falling water, generating electricity for city streetlights.
Some cosmetic features of the landmark include its phallic shape, crosses in its stonework, and the bust of Demetrius Ypsilanti located adjacent to it, between an American and Greek flag and facing out toward Washtenaw Avenue.
The water tower is open to the public one day per year, during the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, and is decorated with lights for the winter holiday season.
The water tower has come to be an Ypsilanti staple - a point of pride and a symbol of home for many. It is also a valued part of Ypsilanti history and folklore (it is believed that, should a virgin ever graduate from Eastern Michigan University, the tower will crumble to the ground).
Taking all of that into account, the historic water tower’s 130th birthday is worth honoring and celebrating.
The Echo staff constructed and distributed a short Google Form to find out what the water tower means to EMU students and Ypsilanti locals. Here are our favorite responses and a Wordle showing the most commonly used words to describe our beloved tower:
Q: What does the Ypsilanti Water Tower mean to you?
“It is my constant.”
“A unique monument of standing-tall grit and 'test of time' endurance.”
“It’s the thing that makes Ypsi great: the source, the heart.”
“It means I'm in Ypsilanti. The little city that taught me so much.”
“There's something uniquely Ypsi about our identifying building being so phallic. It's an important piece of culture that's part of what stops Ypsilanti from getting swept up in being 'an extension of Ann Arbor’ or 'just outside metro Detroit.' Our city is small, fun, and scrappy. I think the water tower represents that beautifully.”
“It’s definitely a statement piece and has been featured in at least one movie that I know of. It’s Ypsi’s 'Leaning Tower of Pisa' but less leaning and more penis.”
“It's my holy messiah”
“The Ypsilanti Water Tower is the best thing since sliced bread. The Ypsilanti Water Tower is what makes Ypsi so great.”
“The reason I breathe”
“It’s the symbol of Ypsi, which is a place I’ve come to love so much! It represents our city’s quirkiness and it’s truly a landmark! While it is a good talking point, I think it’s important to remember all of the other unique and amazing things about Ypsi and our community.”