"I felt like I had won the golden ticket to get into the Willy Wonka chocolate factory," says psychiatrist Robert Bright Jr., explaining his reaction when he purchased a 1,100-square-foot water tower in Pasadena three years ago. The 1891 wood-shingle structure once contained a 50,000-gallon steel water tank that served nearby Grace mansion. (The Victorian mansion, built for William Stanton, a cousin of Abraham Lincoln's secretary of war, was designed by Frederick L. Roehrig, architect of the historic Green Hotel and its Castle Green annex.) Today, the 45-foot-tall tower has four stories connected by a narrow, winding staircase.
Bright's partner, Ruben Garcia, manager of a sober-living house in Hollywood, had to get used to the stairs and round rooms but soon succumbed to the tower's lofty charms. Their third-floor balcony offers ringside seats come Fourth of July, when they watch the Rose Bowl fireworks. "They're practically in our backyard," says Garcia. "It's spectacular."
The uninsulated tower gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but Garcia and Bright wouldn't live anywhere else. "It's really quiet and serene," Garcia says.
One of the biggest challenges of life in a tower occurs when they get a delivery. "There's no going through the front door and up the stairs," Bright says. When the 200-pound-plus Kenmore Elite arrived in July, they had to extend a large beam out the fourth-floor window and lift up the refrigerator with a hand winch.
Other unconventional arrangements include a unique fire escape, installed by a former owner, consisting of a 3/8-inch steel cable that links the tower to a nearby Moreton Bay fig.
"In case of a fire," explains Garcia, "we can swing down Tarzan style--thank God we've never had to use it."