Effort underway to ‘Save the St. Clair Shores Water Tower’

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 5, 2023

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Residents in St. Clair Shores have launched a fundraising effort to save the city’s water tower, a landmark they say holds great historical significance.

Michael McCain said the Save the St. Clair Shores Water Tower group was started a little over a year ago.

When they first started to find ways to save the tower, they thought of the idea of putting a cell tower on it, McCain said. That plan fell through, and they started to look at different ways to save it. McCain said he looked at making it a historical landmark.

“And the problem with that was going to be, was, yes, we could probably get the funding through state and federal funding, but then you would still have to do maintenance on the facility and that wouldn’t cover that,” McCain said.

Another issue with the historical designation is that they wouldn’t be able to change the tower in any way, meaning they couldn’t use it for advertising purposes or add a cell tower. The original goal was to make a way the city could make some money to keep it, McCain said.

“What we were trying to do was create revenue that could actually pay for itself. That was our original goal, was to try to create revenue, that way you could keep it,” McCain said.

McCain said the group really started kicking off at a council meeting in May and more people wanted to learn about it. They only really started pushing the funding because of the different avenues they’ve taken.

“So that’s where we’re at,” McCain said. “Things have changed in the process of growing as an organization trying to save it.”

McCain said there were a few things that reminded him of home and made him feel safe and secure. One of them were the bells at St. Isaac Jogues as they rang, and the second one was the water tower. It provided a guiding beacon when he was lost on the lake and welcomed him home from his service in the military.

He said there are a couple things he doesn’t know, including how the tower fell apart the way it did.

“The one thing that bothers me, if this thing was being dilapidated that much, wasn’t there any maintenance done on it, you know what I mean?” McCain said. “There had to be upkeep. There had to be a budget for that.”

McCain wanted to make it clear that he is not trying to create any kind of animosity toward members of the council. He said he’s been on boards before and knows how hard the decision-making process is when there are last minute pushes to change something.

“I’m just hoping we can help and make a difference,” McCain said. “You know, that’s all it’s really about, (spread) awareness and maybe we can still save it.”

Bryan Owens, a member of the group, said he thinks the cost of taking the tower down is going to be a lot more than the City Council anticipates. He also has concerns about how the tower is going to fall if it’s taken down.

“When they try to tip it over, you know that steel is World War II steel, pre-World War II steel,” Owens said. “It’s the strongest steel on the planet and it’s not going to bend, it’s going to break. And if it breaks, that tower’s going to fall, and you know if it falls, then there’s going to be particles and lead going everywhere.”

He also said he doesn’t believe there is any danger of it falling down anytime soon.

“If the City Council thought anybody was in danger, I’m sure they would close down Masonic Avenue, I’m sure they would evacuate the people from the houses on Robeson, and they would do something about the school next door,” Owens said.

McCain said he believes the tower to be over 100 years old and that it was originally used to create pressure in the water lines to push the water out to the homes.

Like others within the city, Owens also has memories of the water tower when he was a child. He said his grandma’s backyard faced the water tower.

“My grandma has a willow wisp tree in her backyard,” Owens said. “And I remember as a little kid, you know, finding a place to sit and there were owls in the trees all over the place and just listening to the owls and looking at the water tower.”

Both Owens and McCain don’t know the exact timeline they have to fundraise due to the presence of the Great Horned owls nesting in the tower.

“I know owls take a little bit longer than normal migrant birds do, or normal birds do to migrate out of the nest,” Owens said.

Owens and McCain would like to keep pieces of the tower should it come down, but the main goal is to keep it standing where it is.

“During World War II, the English army wouldn’t destroy any buildings like Germany did and the reason being is because Winston Churchill said, ‘If we destroy the history, what’s the point of doing this,’” Owens said. “So what’s the point of doing this if we destroy the history?”

The GoFundMe effort for the water tower is called Save the St. Clair Shores Water Tower and it was set up by McCain. At press time June 1, it had raised $485.