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Collinsville, Illinois has something unique to offer to food fanatics who journey to this quiet city. Standing beside route 159 is a 170 foot tall water towel painted to resemble a catsup bottle. This unique site attracts tourists and visitors and in August of 2002 the water tower was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. The giant catsup bottle is also recognized as one of the 20th century’s excellent examples of roadside Americana.
Just how big is the world’s largest catsup bottle? As previously mentioned the tower is 170 feet tall but this doesn’t accurately describe the sheer size of the structure. The steel structure supporting the tower is 100 feet tall and the catsup bottle on top stands 70 feet tall. The diameter of the bottle measures approximately 25 feet and the diameter of the cap is 8 feet. This water tower has the capabilities of holding 100,000 gallons of water.
This distinctive water tower was built in 1949 by the bottlers of Brooks. The W.E. Caldwell Company undertook the task of constructing this tower at the request of the G.S Suppiger bottling plant. However, just a few short years later the tower was facing possible demolition. The company moved its bottling operations to Indiana and the old bottling plant was converted to a warehouse. There was no longer a need for the water tower.
In 1993, the parent company of Brooks decided to sell the property on which the giant catsup bottle was constructed. The owners offered to give the deed to the city but the city could not afford to repair and maintain the water tower so they declined the offer. However, residents not wanting to see the tower demolished took action. In 1993 the Catsup Bottle Preservation Group was formed and through their vigilant efforts and grassroots fundraising efforts the water tower was not only spared from demolition but also restored to its original splendor.
The fundraising campaign by the Catsup Bottle Preservation Group took nearly two years and raised approximately $80,000 in the process. During the fundraising campaign volunteers sold over 6,000 t-shirts and sweatshirts nationwide, held auctions and bake sales, participated in a live radio broadcast and solicited donations large and small from supporters around the country to reach their goals. The group originally thought the restoration efforts would cost around $27,000. However, as contractors bid on the project they learned the cost would be significantly higher. Volunteers were undaunted by this discovery and simply intensified their fundraising efforts until their new goal was reached.
Although the water tower is obviously always on display and in fact hard to miss, traveling to Collinsville, Illinois for the 8th Annual World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Summerfest Birthday Party and Car, Truck and Bike Show on July 9th 2006 can be an excellent way to really enjoy your visit to this piece of Americana. The festival features a large lineup of events and vendors. A complete schedule of events can be found at the following web address: http://www.catsupbottle.com/summerfest/index.html.