A view from the North Park Water Tower. Photo courtesy of Allegheny County Parks Foundation.

The landmark North Park Water Tower is getting a makeover — this time as an observation tower, overlooking Allegheny County’s largest park.

The structure is 102 feet tall and 25 feet in diameter with an exterior spiral staircase featuring 154 steps, unique ironwork and a domed overlook with a terrazzo floor. It was built in 1936, when a high standard of craftsmanship for infrastructure was the norm.

North Park Observation Tower. Photo by Allegheny County Parks Foundation.

The tower was designed to hold 300,000 gallons of water but is no longer functional for water storage and has been closed to the public for about 30 years.

“This has long been on our list of projects because of its proximity to the lodge, one of the most used facilities in the North Park, and because of the view it provides,” says Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“The project is a perfect example of the opportunities that exist because of the Parks Foundation and the stellar work by its board to provide support and funding for projects that may not have otherwise been possible.”

From the top, there are panoramic views of wooded valleys and hills in the North Hills. On the rare clear day, you can see the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland and the U.S. Steel Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Once completed, the tower is expected to be a major attraction for the park.

“This is an exciting project for our community. We have been working on this rehabilitation for years and I am thrilled to see it beginning to move forward,” says Allegheny County Council Member Cindy Kirk.

“Seeing recent videos and photos of the water tower … has allowed an entirely new group of residents to see the possibilities (for the park) that exist.”

The design phase is expected to take six months, with a final review of plans and costs to be estimated this fall.

Renovations could be completed by fall 2023. The total budget for the project is approximately $1 million, but that is subject to change.

The Allegheny County Parks Foundation and the Babcock Charitable Trust — which awarded a $400,000 grant — are supporting the project financially.

The design contract was awarded to Buchart Horn architects for $108,660.

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.