The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Located in Niles, Illinois, it was completed in 1934 by industrialist Robert Ilg as part of a recreation park for employees of the Ilg Hot Air Electric Ventilating Company of Chicago. It is situated at 6300 W. Touhy Avenue.
Some speculate that part of the motivation to construct the tower was to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A more likely explanation is its original functional purpose, to store water for outdoor recreational swimming pools. In 1960, the descendants of Robert Ilg donated part of the park for the construction of the Leaning Tower YMCA. Other amenities of the employees' recreational park included a wooden toboggan run, which was in decay but still visible in the 1960s.
A study in 2014 concluded that the Leaning Tower of Niles is in need of about $600,000 in repairs.
On November 17, 2015, the Niles Village Board approved a proposal for the village to purchase the Leaning Tower from the YMCA for $10. The Board also approved a contract to spend $550,000 to repair and renovate the building.
On March 15, 2016, Niles voters passed a non-binding referendum approving of the village spending the money to renovate the tower.
The Leaning Tower of Niles contains five bells. Three of the bells are thought to be several hundred years old, and to have been cast in Italy. How they came to be included in the tower is not known.
Symbol of city
In 1991, the village of Niles, Illinois, established a sister city pact with Pisa, Italy. A US$1.2 million renovation of the Leaning Tower of Niles was started in 1995 by Mayor Nicholas Blase and the Board of Trustees, and was completed in 1996, improving the structure, façade and the Plaza area. The Leaning Tower Plaza area now has four fountains and a 30-foot pool. Village web site and publications include images of the tower. Leaning Tower Concert Series are summertime open-air music concerts sponsored by the village since the 1990s.
- "Encyclopedia of Chicago: Niles, IL", Chicago History Museum. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
- Bertuca, Tony (September 4, 2009). "Leaning Tower Celebrates 75 years". Niles Herald-Spectator. Pioneer Press. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
- "The Leaning Tower of Niles" Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, 1999, Village of Niles. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
- Niles Centennial History - Ch. 12 Archived 2008-10-24 at the Wayback Machine, p.116
- Bullington, Jonathan (May 15, 2014). "$600,000 Needed to Repair Leaning Tower of Niles, Study Says", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
- Gaines, Lee V. (November 20, 2016). "Village Intends to Buy Leaning Tower of Niles, Spend $550K in Repairs", Niles Herald-Spectator. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
- Gaines, Lee V. (March 15, 2016). "Voters Reject Mayoral Appointment Powers for Niles Trustee Vacancies", Niles Herald-Spectator. Retrieved March 26, 2016. "A preponderance of voters -- 64 percent -- sided with [Niles mayor Andrew] Przybylo by voting yes on a second advisory referendum question asking whether the village should take steps to enhance the Leaning Tower of Niles, the iconic half-sized replica of its Italian counterpart, and adjoining property. The Village Board voted last year to purchase the Leaning Tower of Niles from the YMCA of Metro Chicago and spend nearly $550,000 on repairs to the 94-foot-tall steel, stone and concrete structure on Touhy Avenue."
- Johnson, Jennifer (October 10, 2017). "Mystery in Niles: Bells in Leaning Tower Could Date Back to 17th, 18th Centuries". Pioneer Press. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
- Dorfman, Daniel I. (February 11, 2020). "Niles' Leaning Tower Named a National Historic Landmark". Pioneer Press. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
- "Pisa, Italy: Niles Sister Cities Since 1991", Village of Niles website. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
- "Niles", City of Pisa website. Retrieved May 25, 2016