‘Ear of Corn Tower’ could become a local landmark in 2024

An A-Maize-ing Sight

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(ABC 6 News) – To some, it’s kind of “corny,” but to others, it instills a sense of pride: the Ear of Corn Water Tower in Rochester, Minn.

For over nine decades, the tower has stood tall and, in 2024, it could become the city’s next local landmark.

Built in 1931 by Reid, Murdoch & Co., “The corn tower was built by the original canning factory here on this sight,” said Olmsted County Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden. “It contained the water that they needed for canning the corn.”

The cannery saw many changes over the years, bought by Libby Foods in 1948, and later by Seneca Foods in 1982.

In 2018, the cannery closed its doors, and the water tower was no longer operational.

People in the community became worried about the future of the structure, with approximately 65 people emailing the city in a four week period about preserving it, according to Molly Patterson-Lundgren, Historic Preservation & Urban Design Coordinator with the city of Rochester.

In 2019, Olmsted County acquired the property. Then in 2021, the county spent $400,000 on rehabilitating the corn tower, including a fresh paint job.

The corn tower can be found on t-shirts, magnets, artwork and more across the community.

“I went to a coffee shop this morning and the back door of the coffee shop has a black and white sketch of the corn tower,” says Kiscaden.

The structure, also often going viral on social media. “No matter where we post it, whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, even TikTok, we see it go almost viral every single time,” says Erin O’Brien, Communications Manager with Experience Rochester.

In 2021, the iconic tower won the People Choice Award for “Tank of the Year.”

In the end, it is a constant in the community. “The changes in Rochester are really exciting but it’s always great to have that one constant that old reliable you can point at and say ‘that’s our corn tower,'” says O’Brien.

Kiscaden adds, “even though we are the ‘Med City’ now, we have ties to agriculture that continue to this day. It’s a reminder of that heritage.”

In November of 2023, the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) noted that while the cannery no longer exists, the Ear of Corn Water Tower serves as a reminder of the industry that fueled Rochester (besides healthcare).

The HPC says the Rochester City Council could vote on the proposal to designate the structure as a local landmark as early as January 2024.