On Friday, May 30, visitors will get the chance to do something they can’t do all year long: Enjoy the view from the historic water tower located in Tower Hill Park, otherwise known as The Witch’s Hat.
If you’ve never seen this iconic structure before, its nickname is fitting—although the tower is hard to miss as it is built upon one of the highest points of land in the entire Twin Cities.
The tower is located in the Prospect Park neighborhood near University and Malcolm Avenues Southeast. Tower Hill Park was once know as St. Anthony Heights, but was changed in 1909—not for the current landmark, but rather a previous observation tower that once stood nearby. The “Witch’s Hat” was designed by Frederick Cappelen and completed in 1914, according to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. The 60-foot tower, topped with the 51-foot tall steeply pitched conical roof from which the landmark gets its name, once held 150,000 gallons of water and served area residents all the way until 1952.
During the years since it was out of service, the tower fell into disrepair. In 1955, lightning damaged the tower, and the Minneapolis City Council had even scheduled the historic structure for demolition. Had it not been for the work of local groups to obtain signatures on petitions, the tower would not be with us today.
During the 1990s the tower had become the victim of graffiti and neglect. In 1995, Prospect Park participated in the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Project. Through an organization called the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association (PPERRIA), local residents undertook major improvements on Tower Hill, which included new steps, new decorative light posts, benches, walking path improvements, and lights to illuminate the tower at night. In 1997, The Prospect Park Water Tower, as it is officially known, and the park itself were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I like to think that I’m a bit of a history buff, and whenever I travel I like to include a few historical sites, big and small, in my itinerary. Historic sites such as The Witch’s Hat connect both visitors and residents with a sense of history and highlight how a community saw itself in the past. (Why would something as simple as a water tower have such an ornate design?) Two other early 20th century water towers still exist in Minneapolis as well:Washburn and Kenwood. While they were created during the same time period as the Witch’s Hat, they are both unique in their designs.
Cultural landmarks also show what’s important to a community today in the way they have been carefully preserved. In this case the Prospect Park Water Tower is more than just a landmark. It serves to unite a community, as it is the site of many neighborhood celebrations throughout the year. On Friday, join the community for their Pratt Ice Cream Social, and take the opportunity to climb the tower.
Pratt Ice Cream Social
Friday, May 30
Climb the Tower: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Food: ice cream, cake, brats, wontons, sambusas, and more.
Entertainment: Music by Mike Wilson and Erkki Huovinen’s The Prospectors
- Len Yaeger’s Lazy Does It Band
- Cadillac Kolstad
- Pratt Middle Eastern dancers
- Hip hop dancers
- Tap dancers
- Appalachian clogging