Hofmann Tower – Lyons, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

Hofmann Tower

Lyons, Illinois

A source of civic pride, though the reason for its construction is unknown.  


The Hofmann Tower in Lyons, Illinois is named after the brewer George Hofmann Jr., who commissioned the tower’s construction in 1908. It was erected on the banks of the Des Plaines River and became the centerpiece of a riverfront recreation area complete with boat launches and picnic groves. Upon its completion, Hofmann Tower was the tallest building in Illinois west of downtown Chicago.

In addition to the tower, Hofmann installed a concrete dam that was supposed to serve a dual purpose. The first was to create water deep enough for the boats, and the other was to create electricity to light the street lamps throughout the park. 

After an influx of sewage in the Des Plaines River, attendance faded and the tower was eventually closed. It sat quietly for decades, slowly falling into disrepair. The first floor windows were bricked up, while the rest were removed. The wooden staircases that once took visitors to the roof were gradually destroyed by rain and snow. The building also became a haven for pigeons and other wildlife.

Concerned citizens made an effort to restore the tower to its former glory during the 1970s. It was eventually added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Today, the tower itself is closed, but the surrounding area has been developed into a well-manicured river walk.

With all that being said, no one knows for sure why Hofmann built the tower. Some people believe it was a tribute to his wife who passed in 1902. Others say he was inspired by the bridge towers of Germany, his family’s homeland. A common assumption is that he simply constructed the tower as a tourist attraction.

Whatever the reason, the tower has been a source of civic pride for the working class town of Lyons. An image of the tower appears on the town’s seal and welcome signs throughout Lyons are shaped in the tower’s resemblance. 

Know Before You Go

The Hofmann Tower is not open, but the grounds are. There is street parking available. The area is also a popular fishing spot.

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April 2, 2020

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