Andersonville's Iconic Water Tower Coming Down, Likely on Thursday

By Adeshina EmmanuelBenjamin Woodard and Darryl Holliday  on March 17, 2014 5:20pm  | Updated on March 18, 2014 2:41pm

 Andersonville's iconic water tower.
Andersonville's iconic water tower.
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel

ANDERSONVILLE — Andersonville's iconic water tower is coming down and this year's brutal winter is to blame, according to the Swedish American Museum.

Karin Abercrombie, the head of the museum, said she wasn't sure yet if the tower would return. It's slated to be removed later this week, likely on Thursday, she said.

The tower's water tank — painted in the likeness of the Swedish flag with a blue background and yellow cross — sits atop the museum at 5211 N. Clark St. in Andersonville, a community with roots as a Swedish enclave. 

"With the severe winter weather Chicago has experienced this year, the museum’s Water Tower has sustained damage. At the advice of consultants the tank needs to be removed," the museum said in a statement on its website.

The statement also said the museum was closed until further notice, all museum events were canceled until further notice and that the polling place for Tuesday's Illinois primary election had been moved from the museum to North Shore Baptist Church, 5244 N. Lakewood Ave.

The water tower had been atop the building since it was built in 1927, Abercrombie said. The museum moved into the building in 1987. 

Julianna Cuevas has seen the tower nearly every day since she moved to Andersonville in 1999 and later began working directly across the street. When Cuevas' friend Adam Weinberg died during a car crash in 2002, their mutual friends tagged "R.I.P. Adam" on the tower — a makeshift memorial Cuevas said was visible from the street.

"This whole block has always been such an image of Andersonville," she said. "I'm really sad about it — the tower is such an icon of Andersonville. I'm definitely going to miss it."

The water tower's image is prevalent in paintings, photos and on T-shirts depicting Andersonville. It's also the logo for the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, which declined to comment about the potential loss of the structure Monday. 

 The director of the Swedish American Museum said she doesn't know if it will return.
The director of the Swedish American Museum said she doesn't know if it will return.
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DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday

In an interview Monday, Abercrombie could not say yet when the tower would be removed or if it would return. She also could not say how the tank was damaged.

But Edgewater architect Thom Greene, who was involved with the effort to paint the water tower with the Swedish flag about 15 years ago, said it was likely that water inside the tower froze and expanded, damaging the steel bands that hold the tower's wooden slats in place — similar to a wine barrel.

"It must have expanded and blew that out," he said. "Hopefully the steel structure is still salvageable."

Greene lamented the possible loss of a well-known neighborhood structure.

"It’s a sad day for our Andersonville icon," he said.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), whose ward includes part of Andersonville, wrote in an email to constituents Monday evening that he'd heard the structure was coming down. He described it as "a treasured symbol of the Andersonville community." 

The email said Osterman's office would share any further updates on the tank later in the week.

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