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Seneca Foods wants to donate corn tower to city

Seneca Foods wants to donate corn tower to city

Could Rochester’s iconic corn water tower be moved to another location?

That is the recommendation being made by Seneca Foods, the current owner of the structure. The company is suggesting that instead of placing the 151-foot tower on a list of historic properties, the company could donate the tower to the city as long as the city agrees to move it to another site.

“This agreement allows the City to preserve what it believes to be a potentially significant piece of Rochester’s history for future generations, enables the City to free up valuable property for potential sources of job growth or development, and allows for placement of the tower at a potentially more prominent location,” attorney David Pederson, who is representing Seneca, wrote in a letter to the Rochester City Council.

As we previously reported, Seneca disagrees with a recommendation from the Heritage Preservation Commission to designate the tower a potential landmark property, a move that could protect the structure from future demolition. In the letter to the council, Pederson wrote that the “presence of the tower in the middle of the property creates a marketability issue as it is unlikely another business will want or need the tower for its operations.”

However, Pederson acknowledged the tower — which dates back 90 years — holds sentimental value for some in the community. Under the plan outlined in the letter, Seneca would enter into an agreement for the city to take over ownership of the tower and then transfer it within a “reasonable time frame” to another location, such as the nearby fairgrounds. Unlike many historic structures, Pederson said the tower is capable of being moved.

The company has owned the cannery at 1217 Third Avenue Southeast since 1982, but recently shut down the site due to what is described as a downturn in demand for canned vegetables. The future of the site remains unclear.

News of the cannery’s closure sparked an outpouring of support for preserving the water tower, which is painted as an ear of corn to reflect the region’s agricultural roots. Ahead of Monday’s council meeting, in which the HPC’s recommendation will be considered, dozens of community members submitted testimonials on what the tower symbolizes to them.

“It is quirky and fun,” wrote lifelong Rochester resident Amelia Bagniewski. “It describes Rochester well and shows that we aren't any old cookie cutter city. We have history and spunk. We are the people in this city and all of us here have looked up and seen that statue our whole lives. It is a historical monument in this city and deserves to stay!”

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Cover photo by Erik Giberti

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