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 can hold 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, and painted in 1974 by the Virginia Erection Co. 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.
The 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."
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 2011, the manager of the Boone-Florence Water Commission said, "The tower is repainted every eight to 12 years as needed". During one repainting, the red and white stripes on the tower were extended onto the top, where they converge in a spoke pattern easily visible from aircraft.
The tower's rewritten words have become a local motto of sorts. A town festival held around Labor Day was renamed the "Florence Y'all" fest. The words can be found on lapel pins, bumper stickers, mousepads and postcards, and T-shirts. The local Florence Freedom baseball team has a large inflatable "Wally The Watertower" mascot. 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 "Soft Play" area in Florence Mall features a replica of the tower.
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