Uncertain fate awaits quirky Rochester landmark

Corn water tower
The water tower at the Seneca Foods plant in Rochester is painted as a corn cob. The quirky local landmark's fate is uncertain as the plant prepares to shut down in December 2018.
Courtesy Olive Juice Studios

If you really know Rochester, then you know about the corn tower looming high above the Seneca Foods plant.

In recent years, the water tower, which is painted like an ear of corn, has been honored on T-shirts, a design for a new Rochester flag and other only-in-Rochester ephemera.

But now the quirky local landmark's fate hangs in the balance.

Seneca is shuttering operations in Rochester at the end of the year, and owns the land where the tower sits. There are questions about where the tower will go if Seneca sells the property.

The city's historic preservation commission voted to put the tower on a list of potential historic properties, but Seneca objected.

"The design is not unique, the history is not unique, but the paint on the water tower is unique, and that alone does not warrant listing as a potential landmark," wrote John Exner, legal counsel for Seneca, in a letter to the city.

Local photographer and design studio owner Kelly Schoeberl has started a letter-writing campaign to city officials in hopes of convincing them to preserve the tower.

She wants locals to share their "corn tower" stories.

"Remember when your dad climbed the corn tower as a high school prank? Remember when your kids said goodnight to the corn tower instead of the moon? Remember when your husband took a Harvard art class and the professor included the corn tower in his lecture?" Shoeberl wrote. "Remember when you moved to Rochester, saw the corn tower and worried you might regret your decision (then stayed, raised a family and retired as President/CEO of Mayo Clinic)? Tell those stories now."

The Rochester City Council is expected to consider the tower's status early next year.

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