Supposedly it is the symbol of the Prenzlauer Berg district. Berliners call the 30 metre high tower “Dicker Herrmann” (fat Herrmann).
The building complex around the tower consists of underground reservoirs (which are not in use anymore), a tower for the overflow pipes, a generator building and a house with water level indicators which are important industrial monuments for the city of Berlin. In the summer months the large and the small reservoirs inside the tower are used for cultural events.
In 1856 the English engineer Henry Gill built the first water works in Berlin in front of the Stralauer Tor (part of the old city wall) and completed it with underground reservoirs for clear water and a tower for overflow pipes (on the Windmühlenberg outside the Prenzlauer Tor). More and more houses and housing estates were being built and there was more water needed. The water pressure was not high enough anymore and that is why a new water tower and two generator buildings were built in 1875 by the Berlin city just a few metres away from the old complex. The round water tower with flats for workers over six floors with its water tank for 1200 cubic metres of cleaned water were designed by Wilhelm Vollhering. The new tower together with the old complex supplied all of North Berlin with water till about 1914, the generator buildings and the tower for overflow pipes got closed down. In 1916 the area around the tower was designed by the garden architect Albert Broderson and completed by Paul Mittelstädt in 1935. The over ground tank of the new tower was in use until 1952.
By the end of January 1933 the SA troops opened one of the first concentration camps in the machine houses where antifascists were tortured and murdered. Today a memorial reminds people of it.