The iconic Fort Hill Tower overlooks Roxbury from the top of historic Highland Park, the location of a strategic fort during the American Revolution. Originally designed in 1869 by Nathaniel Bradlee and called the Cochituate Standpipe, the Gothic Revival style tower stored water from Lake Cochituate in Natick for local residents. Soon obsolete as a water tower when Roxbury was annexed by Boston, the structure and grounds fell into disrepair. Between 1895 and 1916 the firm of Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot made improvements to the property, including the addition of an exterior viewing balcony and the reconstruction of the quadrangular shape of the original fort.
In 2013, an extensive restoration effort was undertaken by the City of Boston. Russo Barr Associates, architects, and Building Conservation Associates paid special attention to historically appropriate methods and materials. This included the removal of paint and the restoration of period-appropriate mineral coatings, replacement of window glazing, and repairs to the cast iron staircase, metal roof, and arched wood windows. With exceptional attention to detail, the project team not only restored a unique, irreplaceable historic structure but also preserved a place essential to the collective memory of a Boston neighborhood.
“Today, water towers are typically utilitarian structures with little adornment,” said Greg Galer, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance. “In previous generations, however, communities took a higher level of pride in their infrastructure and believed these measures of societal success should be celebrated. The Alliance is thrilled that the City of Boston brought this piece of historic civic pride into the present by meticulously restoring the often overlooked Fort Hill Tower, an 1869 Gothic-Revival tower built to celebrate the Cochichuate Standpipe, then an integral part of Roxbury’s water supply system. The restored tower brings a sense of pride and connectedness to our collective past in this neighborhood.”