The twin towers of Durie Hill and Bastia Hill have dominated Whanganui's skyline since the mid-1920s.

One is a war memorial (Durie Hill), the other was built as a water tower.

While you can climb the 176 steps to the top of the Durie Hill tower, public access to the Bastia Hill structure is not allowed, but this landmark is special.

For one thing, its design reflects the arched aqueducts and towers of the water supply networks of ancient Rome. It was opened in 1927 to service both Bastia and Durie hills. There are three floors but these are not only for access. These floors stop the outer columns from bowing outwards under the weight of the water in the top tank, which can hold 2000 tonnes of water.

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Building began in late 1925 and finished mid-April in 1927 at a cost of $46,000. The tank featured an automatic electric pump station, drawing water from the town supply. The tower dome was to protect the water from the sun, and prevent "wobbling" of the tower's secondary columns from wind gusts.

And, at 50m tall, the Bastia Hill water tower is taller than the Durie Hill tower.

So why Bastia Hill as a name? Augustine Georgetti, one of Whanganui's early settlers, came from the town of Bastia on the island of Corsica.

As well as carrying telecommunications equipment, the tower features a large Christmas star, which can be seen at night throughout much of the city.

Since the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, the Bastia Hill tower has been fenced off after lumps of concrete fell from it.