Skip links

Skip to content
Water Tower Arts District WaterTowerArtsDistrict_Logo

Join the City of Chicago and a multitude of partner organizations for a day-long neighborhood festival celebrating the 150th anniversary of the historic Chicago Water Tower—built in 1869 by architect William W. Boyington and one of the only buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire.

Free programming will include family activities, lectures, tours, theatre performances, public art, and exhibitions—plus food trucks, dining discounts and complimentary admission to nearby cultural institutions. See below for a full schedule of events.

Organizers include the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Department of Water Management, The Magnificent Mile Association, the Water Tower Arts District and its members, Lookingglass Theatre Company, AIA Chicago (also celebrating its 150th anniversary this year), and many others.

Full Schedule of Events

All programming below is free of charge and happening at various locations within walking distance of the historic Chicago Water Tower (806 N Michigan Ave)


Organized by AIA Chicago and the Department of Water Management at
3 Lookingglass Theatre Company
821 N Michigan Ave (use Pearson St entrance)
Free admission, no registration required
20–30 minutes each

10:30 a.m.
Protecting Lake Michigan for a Safe and Sustainable Water Source
Richard Lanyon
Retired Executive Director, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD)
11:30 a.m.
The Chicago Water Tower:  Everyone’s Favorite Landmark
John Maxson
Former President and CEO, Greater North Michigan Avenue Association
1 p.m.
William W. Boyington, Architect of the Water Power & Pumping Station
Julia Johnas
Historian of Highland Park, Illinois
2 p.m.
Nearly a Billion Gallons a Day: Providing Chicago and its Suburbs with Water
Dr. Andrea Putz
Deputy Commissioner of Water Quality, Department of Water Management


3 Chicago Avenue Pumping Station
821 N Michigan Ave (use Pearson St. entrance)
Organized by the Department of Water Management
11 a.m.–2 p.m.
Free admission, no registration required
20-minute drop-in tours led by Department of Water Management staff and volunteers on the history of Chicago’s Water Tower and the pumping stationand how the Department currently purifies and pumps almost one billion gallons of water every day


4 Chicago Fire Station 98
202 E Chicago Ave
Organized by the Chicago Fire Department
11 a.m.–3 p.m.
An open house of the historic limestone building housing Engine Company 98 and Ambulance 11—built in 1902 and the only active firehouse in the city with landmark status

Music, Theatre, Art, Circus

Presented by Lookingglass Theatre Company
11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Free admission, no registration required

Lookingglass Reflections
Pop-up performances all day, celebrating the power and magic of water, and showcasing the talents of local artists and youth during the 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre

1 Jane Byrne Plaza
806 N Michigan Ave (the park surrounding the Chicago Water Tower)

3 Chicago Avenue Pumping Station
821 N Michigan Ave (outside the Pearson entrance)

5 Seneca Park
220 E Chicago Ave (across from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA))


1 City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower
806 N Michigan Ave
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Free admission
Growing Community: An exhibition celebrating community-managed green spaces throughout Chicago, open through January 5, 2020, as part of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Growing Community is presented by the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development in collaboration with NeighborSpace and site design group, ltd.

3 Organized by the Chicago Public Library at Chicago Avenue Pumping Station
163 E Pearson St
9 a.m.– 5 p.m.
Free admission, no registration required
Stop by the Water Works location of the Chicago Public Library for a mini-exhibit and information about the Chicago Water Tower provided by the Exhibits department at the Harold Washington Library – plus books to browse or check out.

Water Tower 150 Public Art Project

1 Along North Michigan Avenue and at Jane Byrne Plaza
806 N Michigan Ave (the park surrounding the Chicago Water Tower)

Presented by The Magnificent Mile Association
Free admission, no registration required
20 custom-designed, 5-foot replicas of Chicago’s iconic Water Tower along North Michigan Avenue, on display through mid-October. Stop by Jane Byrne Plaza to add your fingerprint to a 5-foot Water Tower sculpture. Together as a community, we will decorate a custom art piece.

Water Tower Arts District Events

The Water Tower Arts District, Chicago’s oldest newest artist district, is a mosaic of cultural organizations within walking distance of the historic Chicago Water Tower. The District strengthens the cultural vigor of the community and encourages all to enjoy the multitude of diverse cultural opportunities in the area. Partner organizations are offering an array of events in celebration of its namesakes 150th year including tours, family activities, free admission, and one garden par-tay.

6 The Alliance Française de Chicago
810 N Dearborn St
9 a.m.–3:40 p.m.; Médiathèque (Library) 10 a.m.–2 p.m. 
The Alliance Française de Chicago building will be open to the public. Visit the Médiathèque (Library), the Midwest’s largest private library of French language cultural media (No French language skills required!)

The Arts Club of Chicago
201 E Ontario St
12–2 p.m.; Galleries 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Free admission
Arts Club PARTAY music and gathering with artist Eliza Myrie. For her work “garden/ruinate” in The Arts Club of Chicago’s garden, Eliza Myrie opens the garden gate for a mini block party featuring DJ Major Taylor spinning Reggae records, along with a host of Chicago-based performers. 

8 International Museum of Surgical Science
1524 N Lake Shore Dr
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Family drop-in art-making including “Organ Origami” and “Make Your Own X-Ray”

9 Lookingglass Theatre Company
821 N Michigan Ave (use Pearson St entrance)
All day 
Free make-and-take crafts for children throughout the day

10 Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
220 E Chicago Ave
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Offering passes providing free museum admission to festival attendees. In addition, the MCA will have the installation DICE Game by artist Jacklynn Kelsey on their plaza for visitors to play with. Play, place, pose, and arrange the illuminated cubes in this interactive installation!

11 The Newberry Library
60 W Walton St
10:30 a.m., 12 p.m., 1:30 p.m.
Free building tours offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; Newberry docents will take guests on an exploration of the reading rooms, share the history of the Newberry family, and teach guests about the Newberry’s world-renowned collections. Free “From the Stacks” exhibit tour offered at 12 noon; “From the Stacks” presents the Newberry’s collection through a range of representative items, from treasures and showstoppers to aesthetically challenged materials that nevertheless possess enormous research value.

12 Porchlight Music Theatre
1016 N Dearborn St
12 p.m.–5 p.m.
Offering $5 Off single tickets and free cookies in the lobby of The Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

13 The Richard H. Driehaus Museum
40 E Erie St
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Free admission during regular hours including “Eternal Light: The Sacred Stained-Glass Windows of Louis Comfort Tiffany” exhibition and activity for kids. “Eternal Light” is not only about beautiful objects exceptionally crafted; it is also about the ideas and stories behind the windows. Louis Comfort Tiffany’s masterpieces tell stories of American entrepreneurship, of places of worship as community incubators, of our country’s evolving relationship to religion.

14 The Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N Dearborn St
Open house with free dance classes for children and adults (comfortable clothing recommended).
9:30–11 a.m.
Adult Beg. Ballet (Studio I) and Youth Beg. Ballet I, ages 7+ (Studio LL)
10–11 a.m.
Pilates Mat class (Studio II)
11–12 p.m.
Latin (Lounge)
11:15–12:15 p.m.
BeMoved (Studio LL)
12:30–2 p.m.
Advanced Ballet (Studio I)
1–1:45 p.m.
Pre-Dance Sample class, ages 3-6 (Studio LL)
1–2:30 p.m.
Afro-Cuban (Studio IV)

15 Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N Astor St
10 a.m. and 12 p.m.
Docent-led, 60-minute tours of the Charnley-Persky House. To get tickets, click here.


All day

2 Food Trucks
Tower Court (“Little Michigan”) just west of the Chicago Water Tower
Organized by The Magnificent Mile Association

Dining Discounts 
Special offers and incentives at area restaurants, retailers and attractions around The Magnificent Mile are available through a digital passport. To access visit and use the code “WaterTower150.”

Presented by

In partnership with Chicago Fire Department, Chicago Public Library, Department of Planning and Development, Graham Foundation, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Richard H. Driehaus Museum

Special thanks to: