Photo by Donna Dalziel

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Blue paint recently appeared on the water tower at the Detroit Zoo. A new design will be appearing on the tower within the next few weeks.

Royal Oak residents hoping for color and whimsy in new Detroit Zoo water tower design

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published May 9, 2024


ROYAL OAK — The Detroit Zoo water tower design continues to be a mystery, as crews slowly begin to make changes to the iconic symbol of the Detroit Zoo.

The tower itself was built in 1928, by the city of Royal Oak, and since then has become a well-known landmark.

For years, the tower had an array of different animals walking along in silhouette, but the once well-known scene of animals has since been painted over in white. 

Jeff Sell, director of communications at the Detroit Zoo, said that the tower's new design is still a secret. 

“We had crews start to mobilize in the area earlier this month to prepare for the paint job that started on the water tower two weeks ago, and the paint project will take a few weeks to complete (depending on the weather),” Sell said in an email response.

Royal Oak residents are eager for the new design to debut and are hoping for an even more iconic design. 

John Dick, a longtime resident of Royal Oak and Detroit Zoo attendee for 60 years, said no matter what design is on the water tower, it will continue to stand out.

“You get so excited because the water tower is the first thing you see as you are driving up Woodward when you are coming to the zoo,” Dick said. “For me as a kid, when you saw the water tower, you knew you were going to have some fun.”

Some people might be upset about the changing of the wrap, according to Dick, but he welcomes the change and looks forward to seeing what the future holds for the tower.

“Generally people on social media like to complain about everything,” he said. “But I am sure, whoever is coming up with the design, it is going to be well thought out.”

He is predicting that the new design will be “whimsical and fun.” Dick recalls visiting the zoo with his granddaughter, and how fascinated she was with the penguin exhibit. 

“I would hope for something sort of fun,” he said, laughing. “One of the ideas in my head was maybe a penguin surfing on the back of an elephant, or a couple of otters playing volleyball.”

Judy Davids, community engagement specialist for the city of Royal Oak, remembers the first time she saw the previous design. 

“I remember seeing the last ‘Sunset at the Zoo’ wrap for the first time and being blown away,” she said via email.

Davids said in her 10 years with the city of Royal Oak, the water tower and the Star Dream Fountain have been her go-to images to symbolize the city of Royal Oak. 

“For me, they are like our ‘Space Needle’ (Seattle) or ‘Gateway Arch’ (St. Louis). I am really looking forward to seeing the new wrap design, it has big shoes to fill!” she said. 

Although Davids has a special connection to the previous design, she is hoping for the new one to include even more color and excitement. 

“I hope the new design is colorful and visible from a distance,” she said. “I am not what you call a minimalist, so the more animals in the new design the better. The zoo’s staff is so creative, I am sure the new design will be fantastic.”

Sell said that depending on the weather, the new wrap should be placed within the next few weeks.