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Visiting the Historic North Park Water Tower: A Hidden Gem near Pittsburgh

Allegheny County’s North Park is home to a ton of recreational opportunities, as well as a few hidden oddities such as the Fountain of Youth and a Gravity Hill. However, one spot is hidden a bit more in plain sight: the North Park Water Tower’s Observation Deck.

The North Park Water Tower was built in 1936 and not only held water but also served as an observation platform until the 1970s when the condition deteriorated enough to force its closure.

While the tower’s ability to hold 300,000 gallons of water is impressive, the focus of this article will be on the observation deck, which is surprisingly beautiful, as well as the history and future of this structure.

The observation deck atop the North Park Water Tower in Pittsburgh PA
The observation deck atop the North Park Water Tower.

The North Park Tower is located adjacent to the North Park Lodge, an event space that is frequently rented out for events of all sizes, as well as two of the park’s baseball fields. That makes this a prime spot for visitors, and I’m sure many have seen this tower without realizing the secret that it holds at the top.

The tower itself is situated on a hilltop and is 102 feet tall. The observation area at the top of the structure is reached via a 154-step spiral staircase that can be seen clinging to the side of the structure.

At the top, a circular observation deck sits high above the park’s trees. Using my drone to see the view, I was impressed had how forested the surrounding landscape was despite not being far north of Pittsburgh.

Forested hillsides of Allegheny County from the North Park Tower near Pittsburgh PA
Using my drone, I was able to see what the view was like from the top of the tower.

I was even able to make out the Cathedral of Learning and Steel Tower in my drone photos, so the view from the observation tower is quite spectacular on a clear day. However, it’s not just the view that’s impressive.

In fact, the observation area itself is quite beautiful thanks to the incredible terrazzo floor that is still in surprisingly good shape. The floor tiles appear to showcase zodiac symbols, and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be up close and fully restored.

Looking down at the terrazzo tile floor of the North Park Tower in Allegheny County PA
A closer look at the incredible floor atop the tower.

Honestly, this appears to be one of the most beautiful floors I’ve seen in western PA, and it’s shockingly atop a water tower that’s been closed to the public for five decades. It’s wonderful that drones can bring spots like this out for others to enjoy.

There is also a circular concrete bench in the middle of the space that is waiting for visitors to once again take a rest while enjoying the view.

A close up of the spiral staircase on the North Park Tower in Allegheny County Pennsylvania
A spiral staircase winds its way around the tower.

Currently, there is a plan to refurbish the North Park Water Tower and reopen it to the public as an observation space. These plans first were announced in the spring of 2022 with the hopes that the tower could be reopened in the fall of 2023.

Bids were put out in 2022 but came back higher than expected, so work was unable to start in 2023. I was unable to find any more recent information at the time of publication in late 2023 but will update this article in the future if plans come together to fix the tower.

Aerial View of the North Park Tower near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
Looking down on the tower from above.

All that being said, according to the information released in early 2022, the tower is still structurally sound, so most of the work required to reopen it is cosmetic and to bring it up to modern codes.

Hopefully, this project will go forward soon because this is a hidden gem that would definitely be a wonderful addition to the park.

Visiting the North Park Water Tower

Parking area next to the North Park Tower in Allison Park, PA
There is a large parking area adjacent to the tower.

As of this article’s publication at the end of 2023, the North Park Water Tower is closed to the public. However, you can still walk around its base and enjoy looking up at one of the most unique structures in Allegheny County.

Parking is located adjacent to it making this an easy place to visit. Just keep in mind that it might be hard to find a spot if an event is going on at the North Park Lodge or the baseball fields.

An aerial view of the North Park Tower next to baseball fields in Allegheny County PA
The North Park Water Tower sits atop a hill in North Park.

Note that climbing the tower is strictly prohibited for now, but hopefully, we’ll soon be able to climb to the top and enjoy both the fantastic view and the incredible terrazzo tile floor.

The North Park Water Tower can be found adjacent to the North Park Lodge along North Ridge Drive in Allison Park, PA. For those that use coordinates, you can find the tower here: 40.617505, -80.016411.

Looking for even more places to visit nearby? Check out the Abandoned Westinghouse Atom Smasher, the Depreciation Lands Museum, and Fall Run Falls.

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3 thoughts on “Visiting the Historic North Park Water Tower: A Hidden Gem near Pittsburgh”

  1. Hi,
    I remember having high school band picnics in North Park at the lodge near by that tower.
    That tower was the highlight of the day. everyone loved climbing to the top.
    In the center of the observation deck there is a plaque showing the area map.
    Sadly this is an example of lack of responsible management of the county parks.
    There is no reason that tower couldn’t still be solid if properly maintained.
    Also another example of Allegheny County’s poor management is their cancelling
    the Allegheny County Fairs back in the 1970s.

    Reply
    • I don’t know the reason behind the closing 50 years ago. However, to reopen it today would be quite expensive. Even with a grant, the quotes that came in were above their budget. I’d love to see it restored, though.

      Reply
  2. Jim,
    Thanks for this article.
    I remember as a kid back in the early 60’s climbing to the top. It was sad to see it close and it is heartbreaking to see so many of the buildings in the park deteriorate.

    Reply

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