Great Minnesota Water Towers

Every state has their fair share of quirky water towers,Minnesota being no exception.  Many times the water tower sets the tone of the city, or is a chance to give the place a personal touch. Here are some of Minnesota’s best.

Greater Minnesota:

photoThe corncob water tower in Rochester, MN is an iconic landmark. It’s been around since the 1960’s and stands above the old Libby Foods plant on the south end of Rochester. The facility is now owned by Seneca Foods. It’s a popular photo for passerby’s.

DSCN1215Brainerd’s castle-like water tower features painted-on arched-frame windows and a turret-like top with parapets and flags. Since Brainerd is home to Paul Bunyan, this water tower is also sometimes referred to as Paul Bunyan’s Flashlight.


There is also a similar, crenelated water tower in Pipestone, in the southwest corner of the state. IMG_3915

And speaking of Paul Bunyan, another great water tower is found in Pequot Lakes, a small touristy town north of Brainerd.  This water tower takes on the appearance of a fishing bobber, fitting for MN lakes country. The locals and visitors know it as Paul Bunyan’s fishing bobber.

Next up is Lindstrom’s Tea Pot water tower, which represents the Swedish heritage in this town, a sister city to Tingsryd, Sweden. The tower is decorated with rosemaling, a form of decorative folk art, and is inscripted with the words “Valkommen till Lindström,”  Swedish for ‘Welcome to Lindstrom.’

Another dressed-up water tower is found on the plains west of Minneapolis in a small town called Cosmos.  This cosmic-themed little town, with streets named “Milky Way St.” and “Gemini Ave” has a galactic scene on its water tower, with spaceships, planets, and shooting stars.

DSC_0133And who could forget the Smiley-face water tower in the interstate town of Freeport?  This happy camper has been greeting interstate traffic for decades in the town many believe is the inspiration for Garrison Keiler’s Prairie Home Companion town “Lake Wobegon.”

Just down the road from Freeport is the St. Cloud suburb of Waite Park, which also features a smiley-face water tower . The painted-yellow landmark is found in town next to an oversized Pepsi Can at a bottling and distribution center.

The northwestern town of Karlstad, MN features a moose painted on their water tower. The self-proclaimed “Moose Capital of the North” also features a life-size moose statue in a park on the north end of town and a smaller moose near a gas station inside of town.

IMG_4411Another moose-themed water tower is found in Grand Marais, on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.  The tower is situated on the side of a hill, at the start of the Gunflint Trail, a popular scenic byway for those looking for moose and other critters.

Chandler, MN, in the southwest portion of the state, experienced an F-5 tornado in 1992 that decimated the town and left 1 person dead. The water tower of course was destroyed and new one was later erected. However, the town left its dented and rusting “In God We Trust” water tank standing as a memorial.


Also in the southwest part of Minnesota is the small town of Arlington, MN. The Arlington water tower is painted to resemble a baseball, highlighting amateur and state high school baseball championships.

Here’s another no-longer in use but still awesome water tower. This hexagonal rock and wood structure, a 45-ft tall, WPA-built observation/water tower is found in Lake Bronson State Park in the northwest corner of MN. It was built in the late 1930’s and is still open as a lookout tower to this day.

Twin Cities Area:

The Witch’s Hat water tower, or known more formally as the Prospect Park Water Tower,  is said to be the inspiration for Bob Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower.” Although the structure has long since abandoned its primary use as a water tower, it stands as a landmark of Minneapolis and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

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The second of three unique water towers in Minneapolis is the Washburn Park Water Tower, found in the Tangletown neighborhood of south Minneapolis. This 110-ft tall concrete marvel was built in between 1931-32 and is reminiscent of medieval architecture, with eight hooded knights surrounding the tower’s perimeter and eagles atop the pilasters. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Place in 1983.

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The third of the three early 20th-century Minneapolis water towers overlooks Interstate 394 just as you come into downtown Minneapolis on the south side. It is the Kenwood Park Water Tower, a castle-like structure that resembles a medieval fortress in a residential neighborhood overlooking downtown. Standing at 110-ft tall, this structure is the visual focalpoint of the neighborhood and has been in place since 1910.

And across the river from Minneapolis, we have the octagonal-shaped Highland Park Tower in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood.  Standing at 134 feet high and holding 200,000 gallons of water in a steel tank, its observation deck is open on special occasions during the year for those willing to make the climb.  The tower has remained virtually unchanged since it was built in 1928.

Preservationists have done a good job making sure these pieces of history remain, while allowing new ones to be built.  Water towers are often defining of a town and often add a little bit of local flavor to the landscape. That’s probably something that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

3 thoughts on “Great Minnesota Water Towers

  1. Pingback: Half-million dollar question for Osseo: Is iconic water tower worth saving? - Rick Kupchella's –

  2. Pingback: Half-million dollar question for Osseo: Is iconic water tower worth saving? | TwinCitiesLand News

  3. HI I work for the City of Freeport, MN., Yes, the “City with a Smile” we LOVE our beloved Smiley water tower and I am very proud to see so many articles about it as I just google smiling water tower, its amazing. Sadly we here in Freeport have to come to the realization that age also effects metal! I am trying hard to find sources of hope for Smiley, we no longer use him as a water tower, but the though of tearing him down brings tears to my eyes,…and actually I do find it hard to discuss that sometime when people come to city hall from off the freeway, and mention how he helped them find Freeport. The cost to keep him and repairs he needs has come full circle, and we need to decide shortly what to do……Thank you for your recognition of him. We need all we can get at this point. Thank you…still smiling in Freeport!

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