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Answer Man: Corn tower question is tough can to open

December 5, 2018

I just read the article about the iconic Seneca water tower. My question: How often does that water tower get repainted? — Don V

I have to admit this sounded like a sweet and easy question to field, when I plucked it from my mountainous mail pile, Mr. V.

However, even the always fresh Answer Man and his elfin helpers can get tripped up by a snake in the corn crib.

Since Seneca announced that the canning facility by the iconic water tower is closing at the end of the year, the PB’s not-too-sweet, but often corny Jeff Kiger has been tracking the future of the southeast Rochester site.

This seemed like an easy query for even someone who isn’t the all-knowing Answer Man to field.

Unfortunately, like a water tower looking like a giant ear of corn, things aren’t always as they seem.

Repeated daily calls and emails to Seneca leaders and local officials asking about the future of the sprawling facility at 1217 Third Ave. SE in the shadow of the tower have gone unanswered in the past couple of months.

The ever-cynical Kiger told me that he doubted that the famously quiet Seneca officials would jump at the chance to talk about their painting schedule … or anything else. I hate to say it, but I think he might be correct.

However, allow me to offer other Seneca tower niblets of delicious information, despite Kiger’s failure to deliver.

The 151-foot tower sprouted up in 1931 as part of what was then called the Libby, McNeill and Libby Co. plant.

Interestingly, a quick look at Libby’s history shows that Rochester is not the only city with a beloved water tower painted to represent a Libby product.

The cheerfully named Sunnyvale, Calif., was home to a Libby’s canning plant that was once one of the largest or so in the world. The Sunnyvale site also had a water tower cleverly painted like a can of “juicy fruit for salad” fruit cocktail.

The fruit plant closed in 1985, demolished and a business park was built on the site. That left the cocktail tower standing alone and it was painted over to the dismay of the SunnyV’s residents.

Protests followed and the cocktail can was re-painted. A brass plaque details the Libby’s history on a marker. Maybe Rochester and Sunnyvale should start a club.

The next step in Rochester’s tower tale is what will happen the site next. Could another large Med City entity buy it, possibly just for parking and to save the tower?

Kiger considered that and this time actually did track down an answer.

“Mayo Clinic has no interest in the facility,” according to Mayo Clinic’s Kelley Luckstein.

There you have it. Meanwhile, most of Rochester has an interest in the corny landmark.

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