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Iconic water tower lets people in to honor Ypsilanti's 200th year

Residents and visitors look out over the city sky
Katheryne Friske
Residents and visitors look out over the city skyline atop the Ypsilanti water tower.

The city of Ypsilanti is celebrating 200 years of history, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ve probably seen their water tower. Built in 1889 by day laborers, the water tower still serving the community.

In honor of the city’s bicentennial, the Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority decided to open it up to the public for a few hours on Saturday, August 19th for just a few hours. It’s the first time they’ve done so since 9/11.

The structure was built from Joliet limestone. The walls measure 40 inches thick at the base and taper to 24 inches at the top. The steel tank is original.

Residents and visitors were excited to make the 139-step trek to the top. Ypsilanti resident Ryan Hoppe brought his two young children with him. "We drive by here all the time. They are obsessed. We've done tons of bike rides just so they can touch the water tower. We do picnics by the water tower. It's our Fourth of July. We park ourselves right out front so they can hang out. For whatever the reason, they're obsessed," he said.

Once to the top, there is a narrow ledge along the outside. Many took the chance to experience an unique view of the city.

Eric Sizemore is a water system supervisor with the city. He was at the event greeting folks and passing out information about the tower. "I've worked here 27 years. I actually didn't go up to the top until probably 20 years ago. But the last few years, many times up the water tower," he said.

Dominique Labat was there with her partner Maria Skrzynski. Labat said, "I was surprised how scary it was from up there. But, you know, the sight was beautiful and I was surprised. You kind of remember how beautiful the city is."

Skrzynski is on the Bicentennial Communication Committee. "It felt like a Ferris wheel almost. But yeah, once we were out there, it was fun to take some pictures and videos so we can share the experience later," she reflected.

When speaking with resident Kristin Bartlett, she was thankful for the opportunity to go inside and hopes the city water authority will do it again some time.

Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview near the top of this page.

Katheryne Friske is the weekend morning host and producer for All Things Considered.