As Illinoisans, I'm sure we've all been to Chicago a time or two or two hundred, but have you ever noticed weird structures floating along the city's shoreline and wondered what their purpose is?

I've seen these structures several times and have always thought, 'what the heck is that?', but no one has ever been able to tell me what they actually are...until today.

What Are Water Cribs?

I honestly can't remember what sparked my journey down this 'water crib' rabbit hole, but I had to know what these weird things were for.

According to, Chicago's water cribs were once responsible for "dolling out the city's water supply", but only two of the structures are actually in use today...the rest are pretty much abandoned. By 'pretty much abandoned' I mean they are no longer used but are still minimally maintained by the City of Chicago. In fact, some Chicagoans want to see the unused water cribs be preserved and maybe even reused.

According to;

These unique structures were engineering marvels of their day and were designed to be pleasing architectural gems as well. While two remain in use and are integral to the city’s water supply, others have been out of service for years. The City has plans to demolish two of the older water cribs and is scheduled for the City’s Capital Improvement  Program.  Preservation  Chicago  is  advocating  for  their preservation and potential reuse.

Preservation Chicago also suggests that the old water cribs be repurposed as restaurants, museums, or educational facilities, which all sound pretty cool to me!

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Gallery Credit: Sweet Lenny

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