Jesse Hartley, who was responsible for many of Liverpool's maritime structures - including the Albert Dock, designed the Central Hydraulic Tower and Engine House. Providing power for the movement of lock gates and bridges at Birkenhead Docks, it was completed in 1863. The design of the building was based on the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza Della Signoria, Florence, Italy.

The building sustained considerable damage from bombing during the Second World War and was repaired in a functional, rather than architectural style. The large lantern at the top of the tower was not replaced. The building is now disused and in a dilapidated condition.