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Kevin Bonham, Published June 29 2009

Hope, N.D., to raze its 'Smiley' water tower with less fuss than in Grand Forks

HOPE, N.D. — While nostalgia buffs mourn — and even protest — the pending demolition of Grand Forks’ Smiley water tower, people here are about to get rid of their own Smiley, shedding nary a figurative tear.

Little Smiley, as some in Hope affectionately call it, will be taken down this fall.

Still in use today, it stands in the shadow of a new 100,000-gallon water tower that is under construction.

It’s part of a $625,000 project, including $25,000 for removal of Little Smiley, financed through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Department Rural Development Grant, along with Bank of North Dakota and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans, according to Marcia Mitzel, a member of Hope City Council.

When the water tower project first was announced, a handful of people discussed how it might be preserved as part of the town’s history. But that talk quickly faded away.

The city purchases its water from Dakota Rural Water Users.

Hope’s present water tower grew out of a water-sewer project that began in 1948. New wells and a pump house were built in 1958.

The water tower, originally silver and later blue, was repainted in 1972 and 1982. The current Smiley face was added in 1984, at a cost of $5, according to Mitzel.

Smiley-face and other whimsical water towers grew into something of a national phenomenon in the 1970s. Today, dozens of them survive in at least 16 states all over the country, according to RoadsideAmerica.com.

Smiley faces aren’t the only wistful water tower designs. Others around the country include community icons – pumpkins, tomatoes, baseballs, coffee pots, and even catsup bottles. Over the years, smiley faces also have been painted on sides of barns and other countryside buildings.

Hope’s new water tower is being built by McGuire Iron, a water tower specialist from Sioux Falls, S.D. It’s a round tank atop a long stem.

The old Smiley looks like a smaller version of the Smiley in Grand Forks, but without the winking eye.

“When I look at it, with the Smiley on it, it looks like it’s got a hat on,” Mitzel said of little Smiley. “I think it would look really weird if you put a Smiley on the new one.

“I realize it’s been a landmark for the community,” she said of Little Smiley, “but you’ve got to move on.”

The Grand Fork (N.D.) Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.