Work progressing on North Park Observation Tower –

County announces selection of design professionals for the former water tower
North Park water tower

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald today announced that the county has awarded a design contract for the structural assessment and construction drawings for the former North Park Water Tower which will be transformed into an Observation Tower. The project was one of the recommendations contained in the 2002 Parks Comprehensive Master Plan and this step moves it closer to fruition.

“I’m delighted to see this project moving forward and grateful to the Allegheny County Parks Foundation and the Babcock Charitable Trust for its support of this initiative,” said Fitzgerald. “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. 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.”

The North Park Water Tower is an iconic steel structure located adjacent to the North Park Lodge off of North Ridge Road. The tower is 102 feet tall and 25 feet in diameter and was designed to hold 300,000 gallons of water. No longer functional for water storage, it features an exterior spiral staircase with 154 steps from the ground, unique ironwork, a domed overlook with terrazzo floor, and distinctive architectural details. It was designed in 1936 and built shortly thereafter. It has been closed to the public for approximately 30 years.

“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,” said Council Member Cindy Kirk. “Seeing recent videos and photos of the water tower, and the views from the water tower, has allowed an entirely new group of residents to see the possibilities that exist when the water tower becomes an observation tower.”

From the top of the tower, there are expansive views of the surrounding hills and wooded valleys making the future observation tower a high-profile destination in the park system. The structure needs an extensive structural assessment to assure it will be made safe for public access. It is expected that the interior and exterior of the tank will need to be sandblasted and repainted. Additionally, an environmental remediation plan may also be appropriate to remediate the soil around the tower. The railings along the staircase and the domes overlook will require additional features to make them compliant with current codes and assure public safety. 

“The opportunity to once again share the views of North Park from the deck of the Observation Tower led to the generous gift from the Babcock Charitable Trust,” said Caren Glotfelty, Executive Director of the Allegheny County Parks Foundation. “As descendants of E.V. Babcock, the trustees saw the value this project will have to those enjoying the park, much as Mr. Babcock did nearly 100 years ago when he established the park system as a county commissioner.”

It is expected that the design phase will take about six months with a final review of plans and costs available this fall. Once all funding is committed, the Parks Department would move forward to bid. Currently, it is expected that the renovation could be complete by Fall 2023. Total project budget for design and construction is anticipated to be around $1 million but may change based on any number of factors. The Allegheny County Parks Foundation has been awarded a $400,000 grant from the Babcock Charitable Trust for the project. 

The design contract was awarded to Buchart Horn Architects earlier this month at a cost of $108,660.

North Park encompasses 3,075 acres in Hampton, McCandless and Pine townships. There are nine parks totaling 12,000 acres in the county’s Parks system, making it one of the largest public parks systems in the country.