Florence Y'all Water Tower
The Florence Y'all Water Tower is owned by the city of Florence, Kentucky and stands between the Florence Mall and interstate highways 75 and 71, where it is seen by millions of interstate motorists annually. The 1974 tower, originally painted with the words FLORENCE MALL in giant letters, became a regional landmark after the M was changed to Y’ to address legal concerns.
The water tower, which has a capacity of about 1 million US gallons (3,800 m3) stands in Boone County in northern Kentucky, due south of Runway 18L/36R of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) and between I-75/I-71 and Mall Circle Road, northeast of the mall.
In the early 1970s, the developers of the yet-to-be-built mall gave the land for the tower to the city, stipulating that the words "Florence Mall" be painted on it in view of interstate motorists. The tower would thus advertise the mall, which would open in September 1976.
The tower was built by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1974, the Virginia Erection Co. was contracted to paint it. The giant advertisement immediately raised legal concerns. In July 1974, state Bureau of Highways officials told the city that the tower's sign was taller than allowed by state law.
Among the solutions mooted were repainting the tower or covering the words with a large tarpaulin. With time running out to comply with the law, civil staff met for a brainstorming session at the Stringtown Restaurant with the late C.M. "Hop" Ewing (d.2006), then Mayor of Florence, who "sketched different ideas on a napkin." Ewing ultimately devised the idea of removing the vertical lines at the sides of the M in MALL, adding a stem to make it a Y; becoming Y'ALL. Ewing called it a "corny solution, but cost-effective" because the minor alteration would cost one-third of a full repainting. The city paid $472 to the W.T. Marx Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, to make the changes.
As a general rule, water towers are cleaned every five years and repainted every ten years, so the original modified Y-apostrophe is no longer evident. When repainted in May and June of 2011, the manager of the Boone-Florence Water Commission said, "The tower is repainted every eight to 12 years as needed".
The extra publicity surrounding the Florence Y'all tower advertised the mall better than a passive sign alone. On the mall's opening day, shoppers "jammed the Ky. 18 exit off I-75 in the autumn of 1976 to get their first glimpse of the new Florence Mall."
The red and white stripes on the tower converge toward the center on the top in a spoke pattern, easily visible from aircraft. (There were no spokes on the original version.)
The tower is an instantly recognizable landmark, even inspiring the naming of the annual Florence festival to the "Florence Y'all" fest around Labor Day. The number of items with the words "Florence Y'all" continue to grow, from simple lapel pins, bumper stickers, mousepads and postcards, to T-shirts and a large inflatable "Wally The Watertower" mascot for the Florence Freedom baseball team, and even Florence Y'all water tower Bobblehead dolls. Florence's World of Golf has a Florence Y'all replica in the miniature golf area. The new "Soft Play" area in Florence Mall features a replica of the tower.
- "Water towers loom large". Enquirer.com. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
- "Florence Y’All Water Tower". Retrieved 2011-03-20. comment by Ewing's grand-daughter Lindsey Whalen October 8, 2008
- "National Flag". Retrieved 2011-03-20. An Amelia, Ohio, company that also does business as WT Marx Company, Inc.
- NKY LIFE section C of NKy edition of Cincinnati Enquirer, page C1, picture caption, Friday, June 3, 2011