Downtown St. Louis – A View From the West

Place:  Compton Hill Water Tower, St. Louis, Missouri

Date:   April 2, 2016

The Compton Hill Water Tower is on Grand Avenue and Russel in South St. Louis, just a half block south of I-44.  For several decades I’ve passed this water tower while driving to and from various parts of the city.  It was only in the past few years that I had a reason to travel on Grand Avenue south of I-44.  This gave me the opportunity to drive close to the tower and see the sign advising that the tower was open to the public and the first Saturday of the month and in the evening on the nights of a full moon.  Between forgetting about the opportunity to go up into the tower, having other things planned, and the limited days it is open (not to mention weather issues), it took about three years before I finally visited the tower last April.

The iron, spiral staircase leading to the top did not look to be in that good of repair.  But hey, I was finally there inside the tower and I was going to the top to take pictures.  The tower is 179 feet tall and sits on the highest elevation in the city, at least at the time it was built – the city limits may have changed since then.  I assume the 179 foot height is up to the top of the roof and I’ve no idea what the height is where I climbed to.  On the way up there are signs telling you how high above sea level you are.  Who does that?  Why?  If you want more info on the water tower and two others in the city see the short entry at the bottom of this link:  Compton Hill Water Tower.  Do a web search on Compton Hill Water Tower and you will come up with more results than you’d expect, or need.


This is the top portion of the water tower.  Why show just the top portion one might ask non-rhetorically?  The answer is because I’m using my 80-400mm telephoto zoom lens which has an effective filed of view equivalent to a full frame 120-600mm.  What with a 10+ foot high reservoir wall on the east side and trees on the other three sides I couldn’t back up far enough to get a shot of the entire tower.  The series of windows below the green band circling the bottom of the roof is the observaton area.


This is looking east from the tower toward the Gateway Arch, the nation’s tallest monument at 630 feet.  On the left side of the photo the tall building with the round roof is the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse.  Eagleton was the U.S senator from Missouri from 1968 to 1987.  If you’re not from Missouri but the name sounds familiar it may be because Eagleton was the Democratic vice presidential nominee under George McGovern in 1972.  Eagleton suffered from bouts of depression throughout most of his life which he kept secret. (The bouts of depression, not his life.)  When that, and the fact that he had electroshock therapy (now know as electroconvulsive therapy), came out he was forced to drop off the ticket.

The cylindrical building that appears to be part of the south leg of the Gateway Arch is not a part of it and is several hundred yards southwest of the Arch.


This image is looking east and south from the tower and southwest of the Arch.  The church is St. Francis de Sales Church, the second largest church  in the St. Louis archdiocese.  The church is often referred to as the “Cathedral of South St. Louis”.  St. Louis’ largest church is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, seat of the archdiocese.


The monument below is located just to the south of the tower and is titled Statue of the Naked Truth.  It was unveiled in 1914 and given as a gift to the city of St. Louis in honor of three prominent editors of a German newspaper in St. Louis.  There was controversy about the nakedness of the sculpture before it was even built.  Adolphus Busch, who contributed the majority of the cost of the monument, requested the statue be made of bronze instead of white marble to deemphasize the nudity.  Originally the monument was located in a different part of the reservoir park but was moved in 1969 because a new section of I-44 was built through the northern portion of the park.  Almost all the photos I’ve seen of the statue are taken head on with just a few exceptions that are three quarter views.  At first I was sorry I didn’t try the head on angle but having seen all the others I really prefer this angle which is something between three quarters and a side view.


Another view of the Arch, this time in a 16×9 aspect ratio.  One of the problems I encountered taking photos from the tower was that while the windows were large and offered good views, the glass did create some problems with glare that I couldn’t get rid of in post processing.  A polarizing filter could probably have eliminated the problem up front.  I have one for each of my other three lenses but not this one.  It takes a whopping 77mm filter that cost any where from $75 for a third party filter to $130 for a Nikon filter.  When I originally got the lens I thought I might bite the bullet and dip into my new camera fund (which is still a looong way away from goal) and get the filter.  After careful consideration I decided to procrastinate on making such a weighty decision.  But I will admit, I was bummed out that I did not have the filter on this day for these shots from the tower.


After taking my pictures and walking back down past the various sea level notifications we stopped to talk with the volunteers working at the entrance.  They asked us how we liked it and we said it was very nice with some great views of the city.  I commented it was so sunny and nice that it was getting kind of warm in the observation area with all those large glass windows.  One of the guys told me, “Oh, you can always open those up to let some air in”.  WHAT!  Why didn’t they have a freaking sign up there telling us that!?  If I had been there alone I would have run up those stairs (not stopping to see how high above sea level I was), opened some windows, and repeated some of the shots I had taken behind the glass.  I going to stop being so polite and considerate.  From now on if a closed window is bothering me, I’m just going to open it.  It’s the new me so look out!  Well, that’s what I kept telling myself until I calmed down.  Maybe I’ll go back sometime.


Thank you for stopping by.


All photos taken with a Nikon D7100 and a Nikkor 80-400mm telephoto zoom lens.

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