Meeting on Landmark Status for Rochester’s Iconic Water Tower
Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Rochester's famous Ear of Corn water tower could soon be designated an official Historic Landmark.
The Rochester Heritage Preservation Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing Tuesday evening concerning a recommendation to grant the Historic Landmark Designation to the unique water storage tank adjacent to Graham Park in southeast Rochester. It's expected the commission will forward a recommendation to approve the designation to the City Council.
At Tuesday's meeting, the Heritage Preservation Commission will be presented with a report compiled by city staff that recommends approval of the designation as part of the commission's ongoing review of properties in the city that were placed on a historic inventory list several years ago. The eligibility report found the water tower has historic significance under two of the eight criteria established for determining whether a property should be a historic landmark.
One of the criteria met by the Ear of Corn water tower is "its embodiment of distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style, period, form, or treatment." Specifically, the report found that it is a novelty type of architecture "where a sculptural form and other design elements of the structure is used to communicate its contents or purpose" with the ear of corn matching one of the key products produced by the canning plant where it was used to supply water for the canning process.
The report also found it met the criteria that recognize that "its location, scale, or other physical characteristics representing an established and familiar visual scene to a neighborhood, a district, the community, or the city. The eligibility report says the water tower is a recognizable landmark in the southeastern part of the city. It also notes that it has become "so recognizable and specifically attributed to Rochester" that its image is found in artwork and social media posts with the water tower winning an online "Peoples Choice" award for Tank of the Year in a contest run by a protective coating company several years ago.
Olmsted County purchased the former Seneca Foods plant property, including the water tower, in 2019 for $5.6 million. A previous study commissioned by the county found the 1925 canning plant wasn’t likely to be considered for a historic designation, but the 1931 Ear of Corn Water Tower met the requirements for potential eligibility to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. That led to a decision by the Olmsted County Board in 2021 to spend more than $400,000 on its restoration and order the demolition of the canning plant.
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Gallery Credit: Carly Ross