National Register of Historic Places

Old Fresno Water Tower

Old Fresno Water Tower (1894)

2444 Fresno Street
George Washington Maher, Architect
American Romanesque


The Old Fresno Water Tower is located at Fresno and O Streets in downtown Fresno. Built in the American Romanesque style, it stands 109 feet high, with a storage capacity of 250,000 gallons in its water tank. It is constructed of red brick, each layer smaller than the one below it, to produce a beehive effect. It also has a two-foot thick inner wall, and an outer wall of about fourteen inches. There is a passage, or hollow space, about three feet wide between the two walls. The outside of the tower has a painted surface over the brick construction.

Original plans called for three floors to be constructed under the tank itself, but only the second floor was completed. It has subsequently been removed.

Historical significance

George Washington Maher, a Chicago architect, was commissioned to design Fresno's water tower in 1891. Completed in 1894, it was in constant use until 1963, when the pumping machinery was no longer adequate. The original design called for a library on the second and third floors, but it was never installed. For several years the first floor was used as a parking meter repair facility. In 2001 the second floor was removed and the interior of the tower remodeled to become the visitors' center for the City and County of Fresno. As part of this remodeling a landscaped plaza and separate restroom building were built adjacent to the tower. The water tower today remains Fresno's most distinctive and enduring architectural symbol.

Adapted from the National Register of Historic Places nomination, originally prepared by William E. Briam.