10 Water Towers That Look Good Enough to Eat

Water towers shaped and painted as food

JD Hancock / Bruce Tuten / uff-da / Flickr

If you’ve driven through small-town America, you’ve probably noticed that the landscape is littered with bulbous concrete-and-steel structures rising from the Earth like Paul Bunyan-sized golf balls on their tees.

These municipal water towers — traditionally used to store a town’s emergency water supply — are largely ignored and unappreciated, painted a drab pale blue, and stating not much besides the town’s name. But some scream for attention as fully realized works of novelty architecture.

In communities with agriculture-driven economies, these otherwise humdrum elevated reservoirs are done up to look like produce and other types of food or drink: an ear of corn, a glass of milk, a can of fruit cocktail. We’ve rounded up 10 notable food-shaped water towers in the U.S., many historical and functional. Among them are almost enough comestibles to create a meal, condiments and dessert included.

1
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Circleville Water Tower, Ohio

Don O'Brien/flickr.

A 30-minute drive along U.S. 23 from Columbus, the small city of Circleville refers to itself as “The Best Little Town Around.” Although agriculture long ago gave way to industry (DuPont, GE, et al.) in this bucolic burg, it still embraces its agrarian roots with the Circleville Pumpkin Show. Attracting more than 400,000 gourd groupies during the third week of October, the annual pumpkin show has been going strong since 1903. In addition to weigh-ins, bake-offs and multiple parades, a Miss Pumpkin Show Queen is crowned each year.

So it's no surprise that the town water tower is done up to resemble a rotund orange Cucurbita pepo. Built in 1976, the 1 million gallon reservoir wasn’t transformed into a pumpkin until 1997, an effort that required 1,300 gallons of paint. The stem was “added for authenticity.”

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Ear of Corn Water Tower, Minnesota

uff-da/flickr.

To the weary motorists traveling State Route 63, your eyes are not deceiving you: That is indeed a giant ear of husked corn emerging from the flat southeastern Minnesota landscape.

Described by the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau as a “powerful symbol of the community’s roots in agriculture and the land,” the 150-foot maize behemoth has been the region’s primary source of rubbernecking since 1931. Apparently, it’s also one of the largest architectural tributes to corn in the United States, second only to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Adjacent to the Seneca Foods processing facility, this ear isn’t just for show; it’s still a functional 50,000-gallon water tower. Despite its (to quote the Rochester CVB) “cartoonish nature,” the tower offers a faithful representation of the real deal: It has the same number of rows of kernels (16) as an actual ear of corn. Although agriculture is still thriving in and around Rochester, the city is best known for mayo — the Mayo Clinic, that is.

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Tulare Water Tower, California

Brent Hellickson/flickr.

Tulare’s got milk ... and then some. If you didn’t get the message via its municipal water tower, dairy rules supreme in Tulare, a quaint California community in the heart of the second largest agricultural commodity producing county in the U.S. This, folks, is the butter-slathered dinner roll of America’s breadbasket.

One would be inclined to think that Tulare’s water tower, dressed up to resemble a frothy glass of milk and accented with a striped bendy straw, is actually filled with a few thousand gallons of 2 percent. Alas, it’s just water. The hard-to-miss milk monument can be found adjacent to Tulare Union High School, about a five-minute drive from another dairy-saluting local landmark: the recently restored cow and milkmaid statue. An ag tourism hotspot that’s home to the International Agri-Center, Tulare is a town with top employers whose names that might be familiar to those who enjoy dairy: Land O’ Lakes, Kraft and Dreyers.

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Jackson Water Tower, Ohio

Morgan Paul/flickr.

Jackson, Ohio — not to be confused with Jackson, Michigan, home of a "super lame" water tower — is home to one very large and very red apple, complete with decorative stem. And it's only fitting as the community of 6,300 people has a special relationship with said fruit.

Situated in the Appalachian foothills about an hour southeast of pumpkin-worshipping Circleville, Jackson holds its own annual fruit-celebrating fete: the Jackson County Apple Festival. Held the third week of September to honor the area’s abundance of commercial orchards, the 77-year-old extravaganza includes competitive bobbing, concerts, carnival rides and a big high school football game. There’s also a huge parade and pies — lots and lots of pies. The most the most hotly anticipated part of the five-day event is the coronation of the Apple Festival Queen. (That neon contraption in the photo is part of the festival, by the way.)

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Libby's Water Tower, California

John Loo/flickr.

Sunnyvale, California, a sprawl of tech campuses and midcentury housing developments in the heart of Silicon Valley, isn’t the kind of place you’d expect to see a giant can of fruit cocktail jutting 150 feet into the sky. And that’s what makes the old Libby’s water tower, deemed a Heritage Landmark by the Sunnyvale Heritage Preservation Commission in 1987, so special.

You see, Sunnyvale was a different place before Lockheed Martin — and later, Yahoo and the gang — arrived on the scene. Pre-World War II, it was an agricultural outpost bursting with cherry, pear and apricot orchards. Established in 1907, the crown jewel of Sunnyvale was the Libby, McNeil & Libby fruit cannery, at one point the largest in the world. Erected in 1965, the can-shaped structure supplied the massive operation with water until 1985 when the complex was razed to make way for an industrial park.

Thanks to swift action by preservationists, the skyline-defining water tower was spared. In an effort to ensure Sunnyvale’s agricultural heritage — and status as the birthplace of fruit cocktail — would never be forgotten, a local artist transformed the 150,000-gallon reservoir into a 30s-era can of Libby’s fruit cocktail.

6
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Lindstrom Water Tower, Minnesota

Doug Kerr/flickr.

Though most dolled-up water towers celebrate agricultural roots, one found in Lindstrom, Minnesota, stands as a playful tribute to the town's well-caffeinated cultural heritage.

Situated along state Route 8 just northeast of Minneapolis, Lindstrom (population: 4,400) is affectionately referred to as “America’s Little Sweden.” The town is mighty proud of its Swedish beginnings as evidenced in municipal signage, statuary and a downtown water tower that takes the form of an oversized coffee pot. It reads in flowery script: “Valkommen till Lindstrom” — welcome to Lindstrom. Built in the early 1900s, the water tower is no longer functional — a larger, modern municipal water tower was erected in the 1990s — but it was preserved through funding by Marlene Messin, a local plastics CEO. Messin explained that its whimsical transformation into a coffee pot was a nod to the coffee-guzzling habits of Swedes.

Two other towns founded by Swedish immigrants, Stanton, Iowa, and Kingsburg, California, are also home to coffee pot water towers, the latter town also being home to the world’s largest box of raisins

7
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Luling Water Tower, Texas

JD Hancock/flickr.

You know you’re home when you spot the giant watermelon hovering 154 feet in the sky. That may sound strange, but the 5,600 folks living in the rural Central Texas community of Luling wouldn’t have it any other way.

Although the Luling Chamber of Commerce says the town has “the best BBQ in the USA” (a bold statement right there), the erstwhile oil hotspot along the San Marcos River is perhaps best known for its decorated pump jacks and the Luling Watermelon Thump, a seed-spitting, melon-weighing, queen-crowning hoedown that has been going strong during the last weekend in June for the past 60 years. Luling remains at the center of a thriving commercial watermelon farming industry. Luckily for the local watermelon industry, Luling — aka “The Crossroads to Everywhere” — is home to four converging highways, rendering the water tower one heck of a high-visibility enticement for parched motorists to take a detour in search of a cold, refreshing slice of goodness.

8
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Peachoid, South Carolina

Bruce Tuten/flickr.

The only water tower on this list featured prominently in a Netflix original series, the Peachoid of Gaffney is one of the most lifelike works of fruit-themed architecture in existence.

Situated along Interstate 85, the 135-foot Peachoid — with 12-foot stem, 60-foot leaf weighing 7 tons and guffaw-inducing cleft — was completed in 1981 at a cost of $969,000. The tower’s juicy-looking tank has a capacity of 1 million gallons. New Jersey-based macro-artist Peter Freudenberg oversaw the painting, which called for 50 gallons in over 20 colors.

Home to the South Carolina Peach Festival, the former mill town is at the heart of a declining peach-growing region that once produced more fuzzy-skinned fruit than the entire Peach State itself. Recent bouts of nasty weather have left the Peachoid looking a little less than ripe, prompting the Gaffney Board of Public Works to embark on a $120,000 makeover, including a full repainting. The Peachoid has a younger, smaller sibling that’s been turning heads in Chilton County, Alabama, since 1992.

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Publix Water Tower, Florida

Jared/flickr.

Who wants cake?

On Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando, the city of Lakeland is best known as the nation’s top producer of three-tier birthday cakes. OK, maybe it’s not — but Lakeland is home to Publix, an employee-owned grocery store chain with more than 1,100 locations throughout the Southeast. Constructed in 1982 in commemoration of the supermarket’s 50th anniversary, the 155-foot “hydrocake” with a 250,000-gallon capacity is topped with massive birthday candles that light up at night. Some of the candles even double as radio antennas.

Those in search of a more sensible treat will find it a few miles outside Lakeland in Plant City where the farming community’s agricultural pride and joy is reflected in its hard-to-miss municipal water tower.

10
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Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower, Illinois

Tristan Denyer/Wikimedia Commons.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, the Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower is one of America’s great roadside attractions — weird, wacky and well worth the detour. Towering 170 feet over State Route 159 in the west-central Illinois burg of Collinsville, the oversized bottle was constructed in 1949 on the grounds of the Brooks Catsup bottling facility to support its fire sprinkler system. The “rich and tangy” accompaniment, once a staple in the St. Louis area, is still around but hard to find on store shelves.

In 1995, a local preservation group saved the tower from demolition, but its future is once again uncertain. The owner of the water tower, and the property it sits on, put it up for sale for $500,000 in 2014. After deploying the Wienermobile to Collinsville, Chicago-based Oscar Mayer expressed interest in purchasing the property but it’s unclear whether that too-good-to-be-true scenario will pan out.