An Ear to the Future

Joe Kappler, Staff Writer

Arguably the crown jewel of Rochester, the Ear of Corn Water Tower has stood valiantly on the grounds of the now defunct and demolished Seneca Foods plant since 1931. It has not always been smooth sailing for this beloved landmark, however, as its future was quite recently called into question. 

The corn tower saw it’s beginning providing water to the Reid, Murdoch and Co. cannery and was used to find a nearby airfield by the Army Air Corps and Air Force. The property was purchased by Libby Foods in 1948 and was subsequently acquired by Seneca Foods in 1982. In 2018, Seneca’s time on the grounds came to a close, raising questions as to what would be done with the property ( 

At the end of 2018, hot off the heels of the closure of the Seneca Foods plant, it was debated whether or not the corn tower should be deemed historically significant to save it from destruction. Seneca argued that it was not worthy of this distinction, while many members of the community believed otherwise. One such member of the community, Matthew Todd, a student at Mayo High School, was very vocal about his support for saving the corn tower. “It represents our midwestern values and is a reminder of where we come from,” said Todd when asked why the corn tower is so important to him. 

In late 2018, Todd created an online petition to drum up support for the movement to save the corn tower. Listed as Preserve the Corn Tower on, the petition surpassed expectations by reaching nearly 900 supporters. “Having lived here all my life, I felt like it was my duty,” Todd explained, adding that he hopes the tower “outlasts the city itself.” 

In early 2019, Olmsted County agreed to purchase everything owned by Seneca Foods, with the intention of expanding Graham Park. Whereas the plant was demolished without much question, there was much deliberation on what the county would do with the historical corn tower. The Heritage Preservation Commission was strongly in favor of preserving the landmark and the county ultimately obliged. While the landmark has yet to be added to the National Register of Historic Places, representatives of Olmsted County say it’s very likely. Olmsted County Director of Facilities of Building Operations Mathew Miller said that because it’s historically significant, they will continue to preserve and maintain the tower, mentioning a restoration process that they will put out to bid in the future ( 

The way the people of Olmsted County came together to save the corn tower is truly inspiring and because of them, an important part of Rochester’s history is not only saved, but will continue to receive support from the county. Clearly, the tower means a lot to many people and it’s great to see that the county is willing to recognize that and embrace a beloved piece of the past.  Despite a bump in the road, it is now clear to see that the Ear of Corn Water Tower will not be going anywhere anytime soon.