Wacky Water Towers Across the South
What is that off in the distance? Is that a giant peach?
Water towers don’t have to be boring. In fact, some towns have come up with creative disguises that will surely put a smile on the faces of passers-by. In 1995, “Eat Mor Chikin” appeared for the first time on an Atlanta billboard being painted by a pair of rebel cows. In 2008, the renegade Chick-Fil-A cows painted their first water tower. And it's located at the Chick-Fil-A Headquarters in Atlanta, GA.
Ever wonder who paints these enormous structures? We spoke with Jim Kelly, owner of Industrial and Commercial Signs in Conehatta, MS, who has painted water towers from Albuquerque to Miami. Jim and his team paint on average about 20 towers each year. One of his favorites is the Hollywood, Florida tower. He sketches the images on these massive water towers mathematically. Some of his most difficult and time-consuming jobs were water towers in Panama City, FL and Luling, TX. The tower in Luling was painted in camouflage as a tribute to the Troops. Another of Jim’s works can be found at Pensacola Beach, FL.
Luling, TX, also has another fun water tower that is painted like a watermelon. Luling’s “Watermelon Thump” is a yearly festival which began in 1954 to celebrate the watermelon farming heritage of this small town.
According to Brian West, Media and Community Relations Manager of Publix Grocery Stores, the "cake" water tower in Lakeland, FL was built and dedicated in 1982, and still exists as a working water tower today. The design was the idea of Publix founder, George Jenkins (Mr. George) and President, Joe Blanton. There are 11 candles on the cake which are on a timer to light up at dark. The center candle also serves as an aerial beacon for planes.
Mayor Billy Joe Driver says that the Clanton, AL 500,000 gallon, 120 ft. tall, “peach” water tower was constructed in 1991. It is a beacon to beach-goers and peach-lovers driving I-65 to the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1958, the Dixie Cup Corporation located in Lexington, KY, decided to build a water tower to look like the little Dixie Cup synonymous with the company. The current owners of the property wanted to remove the tower but the city refused as it serves as a navigation device for the nearby airport.
In Tipton, MO you’ll find an “8 Ball” water tower that was built in 1968 by Ewald Fisher, owner of Fischer Manufacturing Company. The billiard table manufacturer has since closed but the citizens of Tipton voted to keep it up for visitors to enjoy. The tower is generally regarded as the world’s largest eight ball and is registered on the list of World’s Largest Things.
According to DeWayne Griffin, Public Works Director for Ruleville, MS, these tanks were built in the early 1920’s to serve a local cotton compress. Though not in use today, they were cleaned and painted in 2010 by Alderman Billy Marlow who added the Hot & Cold labels simply for good humor and a conversation starter. We agree! (Photo credit: City of Ruleville)
(photo of hot and cold water towers here)
Located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Mount Jackson, VA is easily identified from I-81 exit 273 by the water tower painted as a basket of apples which celebrates the apple industry of this area.
Home of Maker’s Mark Distillery and a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Lebanon, KY officials came up with a brilliant idea of changing the local water tower to look as if bourbon is spilling out of this 135 ft. structure. This brand new attraction will be a fun photo op for visitors and the only place to get the “largest Maker’s pour in the world!”
If you’re in Alexandria, LA around the holidays, check out their creatively decorated water tower. Thousands (2700 red, 3800 blue, and 650 white, to be exact) of twinkle lights are draped over it making it resemble a big, beautiful jelly fish. This tradition began in the early 1970s. It is lit the beginning of Thanksgiving week and stays illuminated until New Year’s Day.
If strawberries are your thing, head to Poteet, TX and Plant City, FL to see their sweet strawberry water towers.
The Groom, TX water tower has taken many travelers by surprise who think the tower is about to topple over. In fact, in 1980 owner Ralph Britten built it that way on purpose. Mr. Britten obviously has a good sense of humor.
These festively painted water towers often have a story behind them, which makes them doubly interesting. If you’re traveling the byways and highways this summer, keep an eye out for these and other wacky water towers. We’d love to see others across the South so please post pictures if you run across any.