Rust Threatens Freeport’s Smiley Face Water Tower
The threat of rust has put Freeport's smiley face water tower in jeopardy.
My wife's family lives in Fergus Falls, MN, and the drive up and down I-94 to visit them is always a dull and uneventful one. Because of that, I've come to look forward to landmarks that assure me I'm making progress and actually getting closer to my destination -- like the Dairy Queen Barn in Albany, the smiley face water tower in Freeport, the Panther Distilling billboard near Osakis and the Big Chief Truck/Auto Plaza in Fergus Falls.
Now, one of those landmarks is in jeopardy and threatening the sanity of my I-94 travels.
Freeport's smiley face water tower is currently under inspection for rust on the iconic structure. The City Council learned in December and January that rust could be putting the tower's integrity at risk. While the water tower no longer holds water, it's believed that the paint also contains toxic metals that require addressing as well. Options have included everything from repairing the structure to demolishing it altogether.
While preserving the familiar smiley face tower is preferred, the total cost to do so has proven much higher at nearly twice the initial estimate of $75,000. To demolish and remove it, however, would only cost $25,000. Due to the water tower's history and popularity, the City Council is also considering a fundraising drive to save it.
The structure has stood for nearly a century, as reported by the Star Tribune, though the smiley face wasn't added on until the '70s when an unknown resident painted it on overnight.
Personally, I'd hate to see the smiley face water tower go. I don't even have a great personal connection to the landmark or town, but it's always a shame to see pieces of history lost. Plus, my drive up and down I-94 would be a little less bright without it.