10. Its Cupola Is a Historic Re-creation

Cupola of the Highbridge Water tower

Undoubtedly the saddest day in the Highbridge Water Tower’s history is June 11, 1984, when a man broke in, set a fire in the tank room, and jumped to his death. This badly burned the cupola, which had wooden framework, destroyed the carillon, and caused other damage.

1896 drawing of the cupola of the Highbridge Water Tower
From The water-supply of the city of New York. 1658-1895. Published 1896. Public domain

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the Parks Department carried out a restoration, which included a new cupola. Although it looks generally similar to the original, there are aesthetic differences, including louvers in the middle section instead of windows. Also, the replacement weather vane has an arrow, whereas old drawings and photographs show something resembling a mythical aquatic creature.

closeup of wall markings in the Highbridge Water Tower

Today, the cupola is reached via a spiral staircase in the center of the tank room though it is off-limits to the public. On the other hand, the original cupola contained a scenic lookout. A vestige of this are markings on the walls indicating the outline of the stairs that extended above the water tank (photo above).

closeup of the cupola of the Highbridge Water Tower

Find out more about these and other facts and stories at our upcoming virtual talk about the Highbridge Water Tower on March 24th at 12 p.m. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders. If you’re not a member, join now (new members get their first month free with code JOINUS).

archival image of the Highbridge Tower

Virtual History of the Highbridge Tower

Next, read about the Top 10 Secrets of Highbridge Park.

Contact the author @Jeff.Reuben1