DeWitt Clinton Cregier
DeWitt Clinton Cregier

Everyone knows Chicago’s iconic Water Tower, the sole architectural survivor of the devastating 1871 fire. Chicago rebuilt itself and by 1885 became the world’s early architectural leader in skyscrapers and then was nicknamed the White City, hosting the World’s 1893 Columbian Exposition.

If you look closer at the Chicago Water Tower, there is a plaque on its west base honoring DeWitt Clinton Cregier, a New York orphan from a family of 10 who became Chicago’s City Engineer in 1879 and its 26th Mayor in 1889.

DeWitt C. Cregier was not only the impetus behind Chicago’s rebirth highlighted by the Columbian Exposition, but also was the hands-on engineer for new urban fire hydrant and water systems. Cregier also annexed land for Chicago, preparing for its future as America’s third-largest city.

Next Thursday (Jan. 16) at 3:30 p.m., the Arizona Senior Academy will host a talk by Cregier’s grandchild, Gloria Cregier Emma, author of the 2011 biography of her grandfather, “The New York Orphan Who Built Chicago, The Story of DeWitt Clinton Cregier, a 19th-Century American Engineering Genius.”

Emma will present old photographs, official documents, newspaper clipping and drawings from her grandfather’s 40-plus years guiding Chicago’s growth in the late 19th Century. Cregier “was a humble man who did not seek recognition,” said his author grand-daughter, adding that “Without his Golden Words in front of the U.S. Senate, Chicago would not have had the 1893 Columbian Exposition.”

Submitted by George Scholz, Academy Village Volunteer

‘The New York Orphan Who Built Chicago’: Jan. 2014
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