You drive past them every day.  As tall structures, they dominate the horizon.  They are also the two most enduring, stable, federally designated bench marks of Schaumburg Township.

One is the WGN radio tower on Rohlwing Road in the very eastern part of the township.  The other is officially called a horizontal control station and it is the Hoffman Estates water tank in the center of the township at the intersection of Golf, Higgins and Roselle Roads.    It is largely because of their height that they were chosen as bench marks by the federal government in 1956.

As noted by the National Geodetic Survey in Geodetic Bench Marks [1978], “bench marks are long lasting points for which elevations have been determined, used to control other surveys and to monitor movement of and within the earth’s crust.”  They are points of reference that surveyors might use when building a road, constructing a building or laying out a subdivision.  Proper bench marks are selected based on the stability of the soil and location; low susceptibility to damage, destruction or movement; availability to users and lack of surrounding vegetation.

Because both of Schaumburg Township’s two key bench marks were established in 1956, I was curious about the timing.  I contacted the National Geodetic Survey in Washington, D.C. to ask if this date was significant.  Was the Survey routinely sending out their field teams to establish bench marks in the area? Or did the coming development warrant the establishment of some local bench marks that surveyors could use when laying out subdivisions and other developments?

The WGN tower was built in 1938 so it had been here for a while.  On the other hand, the Hoffman Estates water tower was built in 1955, a year before the bench marks were established.  Unfortunately, the National Geodetic Survey could not establish the significance of the date.   I then talked to a local engineer who’s been in the field for years and he said that there would have been a team who would have surveyed the entire area.  The Survey in Washington had mentioned that their teams were 3-8 people.  It stands to reason that, with a team that large, they would have been surveying the area in a methodical manner.

To clarify the bench mark even further, the original datasheet of the 750-ft. WGN tower states that the actual bench mark is on “the center of the top of the mast of radio station WGN…  a uniform cross-section steel structure, supported by guy wirds, 750 feet high and is painted in alternated sections of orange and white.”

Likewise, the original data sheet of the Hoffman Estates water tower states that the bench mark “is the center of the top of the water tank of Hoffman Estates…  a steel tank supported by a four-legged steel structure and is painted silver with the name Hoffman Estates painted on the east and west sides in black letters…  about 150 feet high.”

Obviously, these two structures provide a multitude of purposes–whether it is broadcasting, providing water, acting as a cell tower or being a focal point for local surveyors.  All of that height has to be good for something!

The following sources were helpful in the writing of this blog posting:

Geodetic Bench Marks by Lt. Richard P. Floyd, National Geodetic Survey, September, 1978

The Geocaching website

Linda Shannon, Graphic Artist with the Village of Schaumburg

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


  1. Bob Dohn Says:

    On the easter edge of the grounds where the WGN radio tower sits is what appears from the road to be a windowless, solid concrete structure. Does anyone know what the purpose of this building is?

  2. LaVonne Presley Says:

    The concrete structure held the large transformers that provided the electric power for the transmission of the WGN radio signal. When the electric source was upgraded, the transformers were removed. My father’s cousin was a guard at the fenced property. During WWII he had two trained, attack Doberman Pinschers that patrolled the acreage with him.

  3. Liz K Says:

    Does anyone have a picture of the Weatherfield sign that used to sit on the southeast corner of Barrington and Schaumburg Roads? It sat somewhere between where the Jewel parking lot is and where Ulta’s parking lot is. I remember it was blue with white letters and each letter was a free standing “sign.”
    I remember driving south on Barrington Road with my parents and seeing that sign. Not all the letters were there, but enough of them stood so you could make out what it said.
    I would LOVE to see a picture of this.

    • jrozek Says:

      I’ve seen the sign before in a picture but it is not in my files. I’ll keep my eyes open for it and if I come across it, I’ll do a posting for the blog. Good suggestion!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian

      • Bob Dohn Says:

        From my memory (which isn’t always the greatest) the sign didn’t sit as far west as you described. I believe it was actually closer to the intersection of Schaumburg and Walnut Lane, on the southwest corner. Walnut Ln did not exist on the north side of Schaumburg Rd. originally, but the section south of Schaumburg Rd. was the western edge of the original Weathersfield development.

  4. Liz K Says:

    Bob, you are probably correct. I was a little girl back then. I was basically guessing the proximity of the sign. Thanks for clarifying.

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