Minneapolis moves toward reopening iconic Witch's Hat water tower to public

Witch's Hat Water Tower
Witch's Hat Water Tower in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis.
MPR News file photo

The Prospect Park Water Tower, more commonly known as the “Witch’s Hat” due to its conical, pointed roof, may be open again to visitors in the near future.  

The 2024 budget passed Tuesday night by the Minneapolis City Council includes $350,000 to make repairs that will make the building accessible to the public again on a limited basis.

According to city officials, the 110-year-old structure located near the University of Minnesota’s east bank was decommissioned as a water tower in the 1950s and has occasionally opened to visitors who hike the stairs to the observation deck. 

The last time the more than 100-foot-tall tower was opened to the public was in 2019.

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“Since I entered into city hall, my office has been repeatedly contacted by residents asking when can we reopen and if there's a way to expand beyond the traditional just once-a-year opening,” said Council Member Robin Wonsley, whose ward includes the iconic structure.

Witch's Hat in 1935
The Prospect Park water tower, commonly known as the Witch's Hat, has been the neighborhood's most recognizable landmark for decades.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

Wonsley authored the budget amendment to provide funding for the building. She and her staff first consulted with city and park officials to determine the city of Minneapolis owns the property and conducted an analysis to determine how much it will cost the city to reopen it.

According to the study’s authors, $350,000 will pay for repairs that will allow limited public access to the tower. It will cost more than $1 million to prepare the building for general public access. 

“I think everyone recognizes this building is very special,” said Wonsley. “It’s considered to be one of the top attractions for the city of Minneapolis.”

And she added that on the special occasions that the tower has been opened in the past, up to 4,000 people have attended.

Council member Michael Rainville joined in support of the amendment during last week’s budget markup session. 

“Once anyone has been to the top of that and seeing the view of the river gorge and the University of Minnesota campus, we realize how special it is,” said Rainville. “If we own it, we should keep it repaired.”