From the city sidewalks, it is easy to forget about the thousands of water towers perched overhead. These little hat-like embellishments are a staple of the New York City skyline; we can spot more than ten from the Untapped HQ alone! Beyond their crucial functionality, water towers possess an aesthetic appeal that continues to be an inspiration for art and architecture today. Here are 10 of our favorite water towers across the city.

1. Tom Fruin Glass Water Tower, DUMBO

Tom Fruin Water Tower

Tom Fruin’s renowned Watertower sculpture is situated in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Watertower is composed of nearly a thousand fragments of plexiglass, all locally scavenged. Catch wonderful views and a beautiful light show of Fruin’s artwork from Brooklyn Bridge Park. The original was taken down in June but there is still a replica on the roof. There’s also another Tom Fruin water tower in Williamsburg, best views can be seen from the rooftop of the bar Northern Territory.

2. Red-And-White Striped Water Tower, DUMBO

Dumbo Water Tower-Striped-Red-White-Brooklyn

DUMBO, Brooklyn is home to another unique water tower, though less high-profile than Fruin’s sculpture. This candy-striped tank is equally as eye-catching and can be spotted easily from the Brooklyn Bridge.

3. Rachel Whiteread Rooftop Water Tower,  MoMA

Water Tower, by British artist Rachel Whiteread, currently rests on the roof above the Museum of Modern Art’s sculpture garden. Because of its translucency, the tower takes on the appearance of the surrounding sky—be it blue, grey, or starry black.

4. High Bridge Water Tower

Highbridge Water tower

A different kind of structure, the High Bridge water tower is perched on the edge of Washington Heights and looks out onto the Harlem River valley. This granite landmark was built in 1872 and helped bring water to northern Manhattan. More interestingly, the tower contains an intricate steel staircase.

5. World Trade Center Water Tanks

With its sleek and modern build, you might never guess that the 1 World Trade Center actually contains 16 hidden water tanks! The tanks are strategically placed about every 20 floors, granting steady water pressure to all areas of the building. 3 WTC, shown in the photograph above, also has two hidden water tanks on the roof. Take a behind-the-scenes look at construction at this tallest building in New York City

6. Gowanus Houses Water Towers

Gowanus Houses-NYCHA Water Towers-NYC

The Gowanus Houses NYCHA apartment complex in Brooklyn contains two steel water towers. Distinct from most of the wooden tanks perched on Manhattan rooftops, these two look more like observation towers. Other NYCHA projects also feature these distinctive water tanks. 

7. Water Tower Bar

Water Tower bar, one of the hidden bars of Brooklyn
Photo by Alix Piroun

This Water Tower bar opened in 2018 atop the Williamsburg Hotel. After you’ve climbed the winding steel staircase to get inside, you’re greeted with an electrically decorated window-encased room that offers patrons 360-degree views of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The menu features a short list of classic cocktails, beer, and wine. See more hidden bars of Brooklyn here!

8. “Save Palestine” Water Tower, Greenpoint

Save Palestine Water Tower Brooklyn

Brooklyn is also home to a notable steel water tower in Greenpoint, inscribed with the Polish flag on one side and “Save Palestine” on the other. This lofty tower stands near an old warehouse and is featured in the hip-hop music video Heavy Metal Kings by Jedi Mind Tricks. In 2014, the water tower was painted grey.

9. Water Tower Home, Greenwich Village

As water towers are adopted into the art world, it makes sense that they would also seep into the realm of architecture. A steel water tank in Greenwich Village has been converted into a fully functional rooftop cottage with 24-foot ceilings. The tank/cottage is seated above a two-bedroom, pre-war condo and serves as a personal little getaway. See photos here!

10. This Land Is Your Land, Madison Square Park

Water tower art installation
Ivan Navarro: This Land Is Your Land – an installation currently at Madison Square Park

In 20154,  Madison Square Park was filled with Iván Navarro’s installation, “This Land is Your Land” featuring three 8-foot-tall towers filled not with water but with mirrors and neon lights. See more photos here.

Next, check out 10 Secrets of NYC’s Tap Water