Water towers are quickly becoming a thing of the past in California. They were built to store water, their elevation creating water pressure that is consistent, even during a power outage. Their prominent positions and visibility make them a great place to write your company or town's name, or to do something creative.
Most water towers are boring, shaped like cylinders or spheres painted blue to hopefully blend into the sky and not cause a visual intrusion. In a few places, people have another idea, using their water towers as a foil for fanciful paintings or to display their company logos. These California water tower pictures are arranged roughly in geographic order starting in Hollywood and going north.
Disney Studios Water Tower
Although you can't see it too well from this angle inside the Disney Studios, their water tower sports a drawing of Mickey Mouse. This one is the original, but there's also a water tower bearing Mickey's image at the Florida studios theme park.
Paramount Studios Water Tower - Hollywood, California
You can see the Paramount Studios water tower standing above the film production facilities in Hollywood, even when you're just driving around. Paramount is the only major film studio remaining in Hollywood itself.
Film studios are like miniature cities with private utilities and even fire departments. Today, the water tower is used for emergency water storage - or it may even be empty, just standing as a symbol of the studio.
You can see the water tower up close, next to a painted backdrop that looks like blue sky with white, fluffy clouds. Find out what else you can see on the Paramount Studios Tour.
Warner Bros Studios Water Tower - Universal City, California
Warner Bros Studios in Burbank also has an iconic water tower with the familiar WB logo on it. It's easy to see from the street as you pass by.
You can tour Warner Bros Studios, too - and it has a lot more to see than just a water tower.
Glass of Milk Water Tower - Tulare, California
Why did the town or Tulare make their water tower look like a glass of milk? It could be because Tulare is in the middle of California dairy farming country. If I was a resident, I think I would see enough of the white stuff without painting it on the water tower, but obviously, the town's citizens disagree. I particularly like the fake "straw" sticking out of the top of this one.
Coffee Pot Water Tower - Kingsburg, California
Kingsburg calls itself the Swedish town and the decorative painting style on this coffee-pot-shaped tower is in Swedish style. The tower has been around since the early twentieth century, but it had a classic shape until the 1980s when it was remodeled to look like an old-fashioned percolator.
Kingsburg is located on US Hwy 99 between Bakersfield and Fresno. The Tulare water tower shown in this gallery is in a nearby town.
Can of Fruit Water Tower - Sunnyvale, California
Sunnyvale is in the middle of Silicon Valley today, but it was once the center of farm country filled with fruit orchards. This water tower pays tribute to the Libby's canning plant that once stood on the site. It reproduces a Libby's fruit cocktail label from the 1930s.
Mariani Water Tower: San Jose's “No Water” Tower
I found this tower in downtown San Jose, spotting it from Japantown. It’s located near North Ninth Street and Jackson Street.
The Mariani Fruit Packing Company moved out of San Jose to Vacaville in 2001, leaving its iconic water tower behind. Instead of taking it down when they built housing on the old site, its developers converted it into a cell phone tower. But they took the water out first, making it a "no water" tower.
Mendocino Water Tower
You'll see these old wooden water towers all over the town of Mendocino. They were built to be used by just one house, with windmills pumping the water up into the tank.
Many of the old towers are now turned into rooms and one is a bed and breakfast inn.