Did you know that the Leaning Tower was actually completed in 1934 as a way to conceal a water tank for swimming pools?
If you didn’t, then you’re not alone. To be fair, I’m talking about the Leaning Tower of Niles, located in in the Illinois suburbs of Chicago.
In the 1920s, Robert Ilg, owner of the Ilg Hot Air Electric Ventilating Company of Chicago, opened a park – Ilgair Park – in Niles. Soon after the park opened, he added two swimming pools for his employees; however, he didn’t want to completely ruin the area’s natural beauty.
So as to disguise the water towers, he decided to build a half-sized replica – in other words, 94 feet high, 28 feet in diameter, and leaning 7.4. feet – of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Bronze bells were even imported from 17th and 18th century churches in Italy. Construction began in 1931, and finished three years later.
In 1960, part of Ilgair Park was donated for the construction of the Leaning Tower YMCA, with the understanding that the YMCA would pay a small amount annually for the upkeep of the tower.
In 1991, Niles formed a sister city relationship with Pisa, Italy, and in 1997, the Leaning Tower Plaza was dedicated in the park, replete with four fountains and a reflecting pool. Notably, the Leaning Tower of Niles was designated a National Historic Landmark earlier this year, a first for Niles.
But, how does it compare with the Italian original, which was started in 1173 and completed in 1370?
For starters, a lot fewer tourists.