From watermelon-shaped water towers to a replica of the leaning tower of Pisa.
America is a land full of wonders. With the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Golden Gate Bridge, and brick walls painted with angel wings or the word “Love”—we’re spoiled rotten, aren’t we, Augustus Gloop? And just when we thought we were gagged with IG gold, here comes another one to tickle the tonsils. Wait for it…water tanks.
“Water tanks? Those big ugly cylinders out on the freeway? Fodor’s, you can’t be serious?” We imagine you saying behind your laptop screen. Well, things have gotten pretty serious, so much so that there are annual tank awards honoring the most creative uses of water tank coatings in North America. They’re more prestigious than the Golden Globes right now, dahling. Not convinced? Scroll down and enjoy.
Top Picks for You
Pumpkin Water Tower
WHERE: Circleville, Ohio
Ironically, the town of Circleville comes alive during a festival themed to the dead, but let’s face it, what living American can resist a pumpkin treat at Halloween? Circleville’s annual Pumpkin Show is billed as the “greatest free show” on earth, a four-day extravaganza starring the world’s largest pumpkin pie, parades, pageants, and just about every food you can think of, flavored to the bulging fall fruit. It probably comes as no surprise that their chief water tank along Route 23 is coated to match, complete with stem.
INSIDER TIPAvoid this attraction at night if you have arachnophobia.
Rosemont Water Tower
WHERE: Rosemont, Illinois
The journey to Chicago from O’Hare need not be wasted. Five minutes from the airport, ask your Uber driver to slow down so you can take in this magnificent tank, fashioned as a rose in homage to the village of Rosemont. Rosemont itself is too worth a gander—the edge city is home to a slew of restaurants, shopping outlets, a convention center, a stadium, and a theatre. Not to mention all the friendly folks who ditched downtown for rosier pastures.
Dixie Cup Water Tower
WHERE: Lexington, Kentucky
Before the Starbucks cup, there was the Dixie Cup. Not as trendy, not as photographed with Taylor Swift, but a cultural pioneer nonetheless. The Dixie Cup plant moved to Lexington in 1958, with the water tower pitched shortly after. Though the corporation is no more, the city refused to dispose (geddit?) of the Dixie Cup water tower as it served as a point of reference to the nearby airport, and now we forever get to bask in its glory. Cheers to that!
Ear of Corn Water Tower
WHERE: Rochester, Minnesota
Recipient of Tank of the Year’s People’s Choice Award 2021, this towering steel tank, styled as a Golden Maze ear of corn was erected on four legs in 1931. Over the years, it has become an Olmsted County treasure, deemed “historically significant” and maintained with fresh coats of corn paint every couple of years. The result: An a-maize-ing attraction for all to see (too corny?).
Leaning Tower of Niles
WHERE: Niles, Illinois
Why fly to Pisa when you can go to Niles, said no one outside of Niles ever. This half-sized replica of the famed Italian structure was completed in 1934 as a water storage facility for outdoor recreational swimming pools. Think about it: Swimming. Outdoors. In the north. Naturally, the town had to get more bang out of their buck beyond the summer months, and it serves as a year-round attraction. They even added eight floors of lights and built a plaza around it with fountains, a reflecting pool, and gardens. Mamma Mia!
Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower
WHERE: Collinsville, Illinois
As if Michelle Obama’s arms weren’t already enough, Illinois unleashes another backbreaking wonder upon us. This trademarked “World’s Largest Catsup Bottle” (title shockingly unchallenged) was constructed in 1949 to supply water to a nearby Brooks catsup plant and has since garnered such a dedicated following it has its own fan club. For $25, members get a laminated membership card, t-shirt, certificate, and the privilege of being on their email list. If you’ve ever pondered what Soho House was like in the condiment community, ponder no more.
Peachoid Water Tower
WHERE: Gaffney, South Carolina
Bielebers, your boy may have his “peaches out in Georgia,” but from there, he’s (probably) riding up the I-85 all the way to Gaffney aka “Peach Capital of South Carolina.” Apparently, SC harvests more peaches annually than GA, but who’s counting when all we can think about are two things: the Peachoid played a starring role in season three of Netflix’s House of Cards, and how if it were built on two legs instead of one, it would look anything but(t) like a peach.
North Point Water Tower
WHERE: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Located on the bluff above Lake Michigan, the North Point water tower remained in service from 1874 right up until 1963. The Victorian Gothic-style coat is actually a decorative cover over an open standpipe, making the tower so striking the city of Milwaukee declared it an official landmark. Today it’s frequented by visitors from all over the state—half are moms punishing children for not eating their vegetables, and half are severely short-sighted Harry Potter fans.
Coffeepot Water Tower
WHERE: Stanton, Iowa
What’s the best way to recognize a local Baby Boomer sweetheart? Immortalize her via a water tank decorated as a Swedish-style coffee pot, of course. Virginia Christine, the actress best known and loved as Mrs. Olson in Folger’s ads through the ’60s and ’70s, was thus honored with this structure deemed “The World’s Largest Coffee Pot.” It’s since gone out of use, but rather than maintain it at 35 feet high, the town had mounted the tank at ground level so that we never forget that marvelous time when mediocre coffee beans satisfied the masses.
Luling Watermelon Water Tower
WHERE: Luling, Texas
Just when you think Texas highways are all Whataburger and roadkill armadillos, you steer into Luling and a giant watermelon stands before your eyes. Y’all know that Texas is one of the top producers of the wet stuff, and the folks at Luling have the opening bars of Drunk in Love on repeat. Visit in June for their annual Watermelon Thump, full of fruity fun from auctions that raise money for local growers to seed-spitting contests.
8-Ball Water Tower
WHERE: Tipton, Missouri
The 8-ball water tower brought oodles joy to the world in the heyday of a former billiards manufacturer, so you can only imagine the dark days that ensued when it was painted over following the company’s departure. Local townspeople were (quite rightly) outraged, calling upon wizards with black and white paint to the rescue, and then like magic, an 8-ball returned, and Tipton reclaimed parking lot selfies for generations to come.
Golf Ball and Tee Water Tower
WHERE: Rend Lake, Illinois
To water tank enthusiasts, the Prairie state certainly is an all-you-can-eat Disneyland of treats. This time we’re being served a golf ball and tee in Rend Lake, and there are no prizes for guessing what lies beneath (spoiler: a golf course). Vehicles heading south along the I-57 are invited to slow down on the right lane to sample social media gold while partaking in the adrenaline-rush game, “Crack My Windshield.”
Eyeball Water Tower
WHERE: Austin, Texas
Texan artist, Luke Savisky, decided it would be genius to film people’s eyes on the street, edit them, and project one big eye onto downtown Austin’s Green Water Treatment Plant. Sadly, in a city where brain space is predominately reserved for Tacodeli and doggie bowel movements, this 2006 masterpiece is long gone and forgotten.