Smiley, Facebook Cause Célèbre

UPDATE: Feb. 17, 2009, a sad day for Smiley. “After repeated stays of execution during the past two years, the Grand Forks City Council decided Tuesday to pull the switch on the 77-year-old water tower.” The rest of the story here.

UPDATE: Smiley gets a reprieve…On Feb. 2, “Council members spent more than an hour Monday discussing the old tower before voting 4-3 to seek bids to for saving it.”

Scrap metal or cause célèbre? The Grand Forks citizenry is choosing sides over the Smiley issue with the nostaligic facing off against the practical…..on Facebook!?

A former Grand Forks resident, created the Facebook group “Save Mr. Smiley from Demolition” in 2006 when the City Council started talking seriously about scrapping the smiler for good.

And it was a quick social networking success. Noted in this article from the Grand Forks Herald,

Within the first two weeks, about 400 members had already signed on. After City Council members indicated on Monday that they favored tearing down Smiley, the group now has more than 1,000 members.

Sounds like a good idea, but… since the issue is really about money, it is a shame that the effort did not include an opportunity to donate. That way, the tower’s fanbase could put money where their smiling mouths are.

Who’s Smiling Now?

Grand Fork-ers (North Dakota) are ambivalent about the future of their two-sided smiling/winking water tower, despite the fact that it hasn’t held water in years. Now, city leaders are struggling with the rising cost of indecision–about 108% higher in just two years. (Makes that winking seem more like mocking!) Now this is the sort of infrastructure stimulus project that could put a smile on the face of We-The-People. From the Jan. 26, 2009 Grand Forks Herald,

New estimates show it would cost about $396,000 to save the old Grand Forks water tower with a painted smiley face and winking eye.

That would extend its life about 20 years. Demolishing it would cost an estimated $99,000.

The tower’s paint is falling off in large chunks and it has held no water for nearly a decade. It was built nearly 80 years ago.

But for some, it’s a valued symbol. Councilman Doug Christensen has said it’s “like talking about somebody’s cousin.”

Demolition has been discussed for years. In 2006, the cost of demolition was estimated to be $50,000 and the cost of renovation $190,000.

The photo is from this post on the Seven Wonders of Grand Forks at The The Blue Skunk Blog (which also includes the fantastic “Sewage Lift Stations named after newspaper columnists.”

Flip this Tower

Another opportunity to quench your thirst for one-of-a-kind digs. For £100,000 (that’s about US$135,000) plus renovation expenses, you could turn this abandoned concrete tower into a 4-story monument to to your exceptional design instinct. From the Jan. 16, 2009, Northampton (UK) Chronicle & Echo,

The massive concrete tower in Great Doddington comes with planning permission for a four-storey home on a plot measuring almost a quarter of an acre.

Andrew Kilburn, director of residential sales at estate agents King West in Northampton, said the unusual property in Cut Throat Lane could inspire a renovation like those on Channel 4’s Grand Designs show.

He said: “Anything that is unusual, we have to pitch a figure that will generate interest.

“Ultimately, what we are selling here isn’t a terrible-looking building, we’re selling the concept of what it could be. There aren’t too many of them around and I do recall on Grand Designs there was a water tower that was converted and featured.

The plans for the circular structure include two bedrooms on the ground and first floor, kitchen on the third floor and a roof extension for the lounge.

Cut Throat Lane?! I think that adds $20K in value by itself! The photo here is a capture from a wildly entertaining video on the same topic at Watch the BBC Video.

Water beautiful sight, happy tonight

More festive water towers pimped up for the Christmas season.

Seen in Oxford, Mississippi by gasolinehorses on Flickr.

A futuristic look in Malmo, Sweden, from Flickr and photographed by by Kristian M, who notes “The light is red during the christmas time and blue the rest of the year. The tower was finished in 1973. It is 62 meter high and contains about 10200 cubic meters of water. And the room on the top serves now as an educational center. Before there was a restaurant.”

This one from Alexandria, Louisiana looks more jellyfish than Christmas icon. By jlkwak on Flickr.

Now that I’m struck with Christmas water tower envy, perhaps this could be an acceptable substitute for the bare water towers in my locale, the “BELIEVE” water tower with Blinking Star. The 112″ high, 48″ wide decoration is available for $350 from  Sign me up.

Water bright time, it’s the right time

Christmas lights and water towers seem such a natural combo it’s surprising we don’t see more of them. Perhaps they interfere with the increasingly prevalent cell antennas. Anyhow, here’s a few for your holiday enjoyment.

An annual tradition: Camarillo, California water tower from

Branson, Missouri, from Flickr by Antonia Quest.

Larned, Kansas on Flickr by photo.klick.

Mandeville, Louisiana by David Schexnaydre on Flickr.

Flickr-er jhwk_errant photographed this one in Lyons, Kansas.

The ultimate in water container recycling

Low rates of recycling for water bottles? Time to think bigger. The Sugar City, Idaho water tower, out of service for nearly 60 years, is getting a $25,000 spiff-up for its second life as a parking place for cell antennas. According to,

A major project is about to get underway in Sugar City to restore an old water tower that’s not even being used anymore.

People can see the water tower from almost anywhere in the city and some are saying the peeling paint and rust are making it an eyesore.

Even though it hasn’t been in use since the 1950’s, the city plans to spend a lot money to fix it up.

“It’s gonna be about 25 thousand dollars and the painting is guaranteed for about 30 years,” said Lamont Merrill of the Sugar City Council.

The old water tower, built in 1915, will be completely cleaned off and repainted.

A few months ago, Sugar City’s beautification committee asked the mayor and city council to approve the restoration project.

The issue was debated because the water tower is no longer being used. Some in the city think it’s a waste of money. But, the city council gave the okay because cell phone companies are renting space on tower.

“We’re going to receive about 700 dollars a month from the cell companies to go towards painting and maintenance and restoration of the toward,” said Merrill.

That means in two and a half years, the 25,000 dollars will be paid off and the city will start to make a profit.

Water tower superlatives

No matter what the profession or endeavor, somewhere, someone is honoring “the best.” Even if they’re just doing it to create a promotional opportunity. Such is the case of the “2007 Tank of the Year,” an award bestowed by Tnemec Company, “a leading manufacturer of protective coatings for water tanks for more than 30 years.”

The winning Anderson, SC water tank (actually, a pair)  is designed to look like a hot air balloon complete with gondola and passengers. Lest anyone think this was not a notable achievement requiring grit and determination, here’s a photo of the painting in progress:

Of course, for every victorious winner there is a runner up. For the 2007 tank design derby, that was the Wahoo, Nebraska Water Tower, featuring a fluid, flowing American flag. Here are the Wahoo painters, laboring with the relative luxury of a crane assist:

Anderson photo #1 by xxxmean jennyxxx; Anderson painting photo by sisudave. Wahoo water tower photo by impala.1079. All from Flickr.

A water tower you can climb

Although Tank, Spaz and Tiddy might not be welcomed, this water tower in the Giant City State Park, near Carbondale, Illinois averts temptation with a design meant to climb. Constructed in 1970, it’s 82 ft. high, holds 100,000 gallons and includes a 50 ft. observation deck for panoramic views of the park and beyond. I like the semi-sci-fi, sculptural look of it–maybe better suited for downtown Chicago than downstate. You can put this one in my backyard.

The lovely photo is from by bambam203.

Tank, Spaz, Tiddy & Melissa


I’m sure a little summer fun is all they had in mind. Or maybe summer fun in their little minds. Four Manatee county, Florida teenagers went straight to jail for burglary and criminal mischief when they were nailed vandalizing this water tower. Melissa Jenkins, her brother “Spaz” Jenkins and his two friends, Frankie “Tank” Koonz and Jordan “Tiddy” Tidwell scaled the water tower to spray paint their names. Now, that’s smart! Sheriff’s deputies eventually arrived on the scene and arrested all four.

At 10:30 pm on a Friday night, they climbed a ladder and got to work, . Someone on the ground spotted the antics and called police. Photos from ABC7

Bleak to Chic

This July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Pfister and Vogel water tower, from an old tannery building near the city’s park east corridor, was moved and placed it in its new location as a symbolic landmark of the ritzy new North End development–all 42,000 lbs. of it. The $175 million development will include new condos, apartments, stores, and river walks on a formerly blighted urban property.

Photo #1, from davereid2 on Flickr. Photos 2 and 3 from by Dawes Rigging and Crane.