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'What a jewel we have here' | Teams work to save historic Grand Water Tower

The tower has been standing in north St. Louis since 1871. Over the weekend, it got its first fresh coat of paint in 70 years

ST. LOUIS — There is an effort going on throughout St. Louis to bring pride back to neighborhoods.

James Clark of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is on a mission to return the soul to north city. He started by taking on a well-known landmark: the Grand Water Tower. It stands tall in north city.

“The tallest classical column in the world,” said Andrew Wanko of the Missouri Historical Society.

It is an unmistakable sight.

“It is such a strong image,” said Clark.

The tower was constructed in 1871 and was built with a purpose.

“Unbelievably important piece of St. Louisans getting drinking water out of their own facets in the 1870s,” Wanko explained.

Credit: Missouri Historical Society

The towering structure hasn’t been in use in 108 years.

“Sort of quietly asleep since 1912. It’s this antique that we still have on our city’s skyline,” Wanko added.

But it was never torn down. The tower’s appearance had been beaten up.

“State of total decay,” said Clark.

The Urban League brought an end to that neglect with operation Clean Sweep. Clark headed up the effort. It was a personal matter for him.

“The water tower is a member of my family,” he said. “It has been a part of my life since birth.”

A construction team with Fred Weber was able to paint the entire tower within a matter of hours. The company paid for the entire paint project.

It was the first fresh coat of paint on the tower in 70 years.

“Great to see this thing is being saved,” said Wanko.

Credit: KSDK

The coats of white paint help restore the tower’s grandeur.

“What a jewel we have here,” Clark said.

He sees the paint job as just the beginning for the College Hill neighborhood.

“Part of a strong renaissance for north St. Louis,” said Clark.

The neighborhood has seen its fair share of neglect. Clark pointed out the vacant buildings and the lots near the landmark. He hopes the refreshed tower will bring a refreshed attitude.

“We now have got to challenge ourselves to do the same thing within our families and to do the same thing within our neighborhoods,” Clark said.

The Grand Water Tower is a piece of St. Louis history that Clark believes could inspire a brighter future.

“Inspiration at a time when St. Louis needs it,” he said.

If you want to learn more about Clark’s effort visit the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’ website.