Swedish flag water tower returns to Andersonville

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than three years after it was taken down, the iconic water tower in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood returned to its home on Tuesday.

It was no small effort to place the tower back on the roof of the Swedish American Museum.

A symbol of the spirit of the Andersonville neighborhood returned on Tuesday afternoon as the Swedish water tower rejoined the skyline.

"To have that as a reminder of what this neighborhood was built on, what the city and the country were built on is really good, especially now," said Faith Tsurutani in Andersonville.

Scott Martin, owner of the neighborhood bar Simon's Tavern, dressed up in Viking garb to celebrate it.

"Really what this whole day is about is the community. So it's a pretty proud day for us Scandinavian, us Sweds for sure," said Martin.

Dozens of spectators gathered along Clark Street and Foster Avenue as the new structure was hoisted atop the Swedish American Museum.

The old tank was beyond repair and could no longer function as a part of the museum's building sprinkler system and had to be removed.

"It's a very exciting day. I don't think any of us totally understand the realization of what's happening," said Swedish American Museum Executive Director Karin Moen Abercrombie.

The museum led the effort to get a new rooftop water tower after the 20,000 gallon, 90-year old wooden water tower was left damaged by the brutally cold winter of 2014.

It was beyond repair and could no longer function as a part of the museum building's sprinkler system.

"And at that time we didn't really know what that we could do what we're doing today, so it was really sad," said Swedish American Museum Founding Director Kerstine Lane.

After raising over $165,000 in donations, a new two-story steel fiberglass replica was installed.

"The exterior is fiberglass-cladded, the interior is made of structural steel. We worked hand-in-hand with the architect and structural engineer to make it safe. We are working with an existing structure underneath, so it has its challenges," said Daniel Zarco, the contractor for the new water tower.

"Visually, it's the same thing; structurally, it's a whole different animal in terms of what was done," said the new water tower architect Miles Lindblad.

The replica weighs nearly 27,000 pounds and will hold no water.

Crews used two cranes to assemble the tower's base first, then its basin and top.

Just like the old one, the new water tower dons the blue and yellow colors of the Swedish flag in respect to the immigrants who came to this community hundreds of years ago.

For many here, the Swedish water tower is not only a beacon of heritage and history, but a symbol of pride.

"One of the great things about this city is the diversity of each neighborhood, how each neighborhood is so culturally specific and yet inclusive and diverse and this is just another example of one of those things," said North side resident Tommy Callan.

The whole installation process took between five and six hours to complete, which is nothing compared to the over 12 hours it took to remove the old water tower.

Museum officials say leftover pieces of wood from the old tower will be included in a future exhibit.
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