Where the water towers are

Where the water towers are

Elizabeth Hawes, over at the Opinionator, moves downtown in New York City to get a different perspective:

Looking east from West Broadway, I see a faded advertisement for handkerchiefs on a wall rising above a single-story wooden house with a bulky warehouse and the spire of the Woolworth Building beyond. From the river, I see many generations and many shapes of water towers. Under conditions like these, I have found it almost impossible not to be responsive, not to be in a continuing state of surprise, not to find my reflection everywhere in the landscape and to be at home.

Look up one day in Manhattan, during daylight, and the city is a forest of faded advertisements and water towers. It’s the latter that’s always captivated me. Spot your first, and you won’t see the sky the same again above a sixth story.

It’s because:

“New York bedrock doesn’t let water travel naturally above six stories,” [Brian Hayes, expert on the industriosphere] explains. Until the advent of modern plumbing, water towers were needed to build pressure in the pipes. Even today, he adds, “some say that no one has figured out how to make a water tank that works better” than the old ones from the 1920s.

See also:
Thousands from the Industriosphere

Brian also points out:

In Tribeca, you’re now required to have [a water tower] even if you’re not using one. The people who build them claim the water that comes out of a wood tank tastes better. …. Maybe it’s the slime that makes it taste better.

For now, I’ll keep on calling my five-story-and-under neighborhood home.