On behalf of all who have traveled the windswept Interstate 94 corridor between Minneapolis and Fargo, thank you to the city of Freeport, Minn., for the day-brightening landmark known far and wide as the “smiley water tower.” Please don’t tear it down.
The world needs more smiles, not fewer. This is no generic yellow smiley face. Instead, it’s a pair of eyes and a big, dimpled grin that someone freehanded onto the town’s metal water tower in the early 1970s. That the smile wasn’t an official city project but came about spontaneously — a local resident climbed up one night to paint it — adds to its appeal. The artist who did it must have been inspired to inject a little happiness into the lives of town residents and passing motorists.
It worked — and the sentiment is appreciated even more decades later as politics and social media divide us. Unfortunately, the nearly century-old water tower, which is no longer used, is aging and may need $50,000 to $150,000 worth of repairs. According to a Star Tribune story, rust may be affecting the tower’s stability. It may also have lead and chromium-based paint on it.
This is a daunting sum for a town of 670 residents to find. While the water tower is now incorporated into the “Great Seal of the City of Freeport,” the structure could face demolition depending on the results of an upcoming inspection and how costly repairs would be. Thankfully, Mayor Mike Eveslage wants to save the landmark and says that many residents of the Stearns County town feel the same way. It’s possible that a fundraiser may be in the works.
Our advice to the mayor: Launch one soon and make it easy for everyone, not just Freeport residents, to contribute. The water tower has a large fan base. An online campaign, such as through GoFundMe or a similar service, would allow its many friends to ease the financial burden of repairs. This happy beacon on the prairie is worth preserving.