Village of Niles to repair Leaning Tower
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The Leaning Tower of Niles will be repaired for more than a half a million dollars after the YMCA of Metro Chicago donated the replica to the Village of Niles.
The Niles Village Board of Trustees at its meeting Nov. 17 approved a letter of intent to purchase the property from the YMCA so that it can have full ownership of the tower and the land surrounding it, which the village is under contract to maintain until 2059. The ownership will allow the village to seek having the tower placed on the National Register of Historic Places after it repairs the structure.
A YMCA spokeswoman said that the village approached YMCA officials to see if they wanted to sell the property and they decided to sell it to the village for $10 instead.
The 94-foot tower, which is on the grounds of the Leaning Tower YMCA, 6300 W. Touhy Ave., is about half the size of the 177-foot Leaning Tower of Pisa. The replica was built in 1934 by businessman Robert Ilg.
"We are lucky to have an iconic treasure in our community, and by that I am of course referring to the Niles Leaning Tower, which we are committed to maintaining well into the future," village Mayor Andrew Przybylo said in a statement. "The tower will be a focal point to the recently created Touhy Arts and Culture Corridor Tax Increment Financing District, and once we have refurbished the tower to its former glory, we will pursue designation as a historical site under the National Historic Preservation Act."
"We’re grateful for the Village of Niles’ longtime investment and are pleased that community members and visitors can continue to enjoy the Leaning Tower replica for generations to come," YMCA of Metro Chicago president Richard Malone said in a statement.
The board approved a $548,200 contract with Design Installation Systems for structural repairs because the tower is deteriorating. The firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates evaluated the tower to determine the cost of the repairs.
The work includes removal and replacement of precast copings and arches, replacement of columns on the first floor, concrete repairs, epoxy injection of cracks at columns, replacement of deteriorated sealant at columns, connection of steel stairs and concrete slabs, replacement of tiles, painting and installation of a waterproofing membrane, according to the contract.
The village has been leasing the tower from the YMCA for $1. The YMCA obtained the land from Ilg in 1964 under the condition that the tower be maintained through the year 2059. However, since then the Leaning Tower YMCA has had trouble maintaining the tower and it leased it to the village in 1995.
Repair work was done on the tower was a part of the village’s centennial celebration in 1999. Former mayor Nicholas Blase began a $1 million renovation project in 1995 that improved the structure and the surrounding area. A pool and four fountains were built as part of the improvements to the Leaning Tower Plaza.
A plaque at the tower says that the replica was built as a utility tower to store and hide water filtration tanks. The design was selected to honor scientist Galileo. The tower has a 7.4-foot tilt. The Leaning Tower of Pisa has a 15.2-foot tilt.
A plaque on the replica tower says "This tower is dedicated to all who contribute and strive to make the Earth and its unlimited resources materially and scientifically a better place for mankind."
In 1997 the Village of Niles completed a $1.2 million renovation project that included the addition of a plaza around the tower with four fountains, a 30-foot reflecting pool, a "telefono" booth and landscaping.