THE WATERTOWER AS A LANDMARK
A hundred years ago, the water tower helped put Faunsdale on the map, and insured its viability. Now, decades later, the supporters of the Faunsdale Foundation think the restoration of its water tower can do the same, helping to attract tourists and local businesses by fostering community pride and a sense of place. Without the big block letters spelling out Faunsdale’s name on its iconic tower, the town would be hard pressed to retain a toehold in local memory.
The preservation movement has begun to recognize the important role that water towers play as cultural icons in rural communities. The National Register of Historic Places has granted landmark status to at least 45 water towers throughout the country, including the Old Florence Water Tower in Florence, Alabama. Preservation efforts to save water towers are underway in small towns like Flatonia, Texas; Westminster, Colorado; Tracy, California; and Grand Forks, North Dakota. In flat rural areas where storage tanks loom above the town, they are towering reminders of an agricultural heritage. As a New York Times reporter wrote of a similar tower in Hernando, Mississippi: “It just holds water, and in the time-honored tradition of small-town water towers, tells the wayfarer he has arrived.”
Like windmills and covered bridges, water towers are celebrated by artists and photographers. Alabama water towers appear as “beautiful places” on Pinterest, and artistic photos of Faunsdale’s tower can be found on Flicker.com. In England, the British Water Tower Appreciation Society unites water tower enthusiasts who “share the enjoyment of their artistic, cultural, architectural, historical, social and engineering significance.” The North Mississippi Allstars featured the Hernando, Mississippi “Tin Man” on the cover of one of its albums. And in 2012, country music star Jason Aldean dedicated a song, “Water Tower,” to his hometown icon.
“Like a lighthouse in a storm, you help me find my way back home.”
--Jason Aldean, “Water Tower” from his 2012 Night Train album