Built in 1825 by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Works, this steel-framed water tower was the main water supplier for the "The Colony on the Ste. Claire"; - a secluded residential community established in Clay Township in the early 1920s. The Colony Tower marked the entrance to the Will St. John estate, the home of the real estate developer who founded The Colony subdivision. The 136-foot tower once housed a 60,000-gallon water tank. Constructed with curtain walls and steel plates to resemble a lighthouse, it demonstrates the early twentieth-century penchant for disguising the utilitarian functions of highly visible structures. A light shone from atop the tower, aiding boat and aircraft navigation from 1925 until 1937, when it the light was extinguished due to its high operating costs.
Style Tudor Revival
Architect/Builder Chicago Bridge and Iron Works
The Colony Tower complex is comprised of the Colony Tower, a 136-foot high water tank tower with a steel-plate exterior designed to resemble a lighthouse, and nearby gatekeeper's cottage and "carriage house" or garage buildings in Neo-Tudor style with high gabled roofs and white stuccoed walls with half-timbering in the gables. The complex forms the entrance to "The Colony" subdivision fronting on the North Channel of the St. Clair River. A semi-circular drive off Dyke Road (M-29) leads to a narrow, gated drive which passes between the gatekeeper's cottage and garage into the subdivision. A canal forms the back of the five subdivision lots on which the complex stands.
Statement of Significance
The Colony Tower and its attractive matching gate and carriage house buildings are landmarks in the early twentieth-century suburban and recreational development of the St. Clair delta area. The tower, visible for miles in the flat delta country, and formal entrance group were constructed for Detroit real estate developer Will St. John as part of his plan to develop an exclusive subdivision known as "The Colony" in this previously thinly settled summer resort area located one-and-one-half hours from downtown Detroit. "The Colony" proved unsuccessful from a business standpoint in its early years because of the onset of the Great Depression but was the precursor of the development which now solidly lines the entire north shoreline of Lake St. Clair. The Colony Tower is one of the few twentieth-century Michigan examples of functional water tank tower structures disguised and made more attractive with architectural clothing. "The Colony" was platted in early 1926 and the lighthouse-like water tower and gatehouse buildings probably built the same year. The tower was built to house the water tank for the subdivision's water system.