ST. CLAIR, Mo. – St. Clair, Missouri, may be a small town, but it boasts a unique landmark that has become the town’s unofficial mascot: the water towers labeled “hot” and “cold.”

Perched on a ridge, these towers are more than just functional structures; they symbolize the town’s character and ingenuity. Jo Schaper, the secretary of the St. Clair Historical Museum, sheds light on the origins of these iconic towers.

“Unlike many small towns located by rivers, St. Clair is situated on a ridge and has never had a reliable natural water source,” she said.

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Photo by the St. Clair Historical Museum

To address this, the town established its first water tower in the late 1800s, long before the advent of a municipal water system.

As the town grew, so did its water needs. By the early 1970s, the original 200,000-gallon water tower was no longer sufficient. A second tower was erected in the early 1980s, next to the first.

It was then that a creative mayor decided to paint the labels hot and cold on the two towers, a playful nod to their appearance resembling faucets. The names don’t serve any functional purpose; it’s just a funny joke.

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“Both towers are part of the same water system, drawing from the same aquifer,” Schaper said.

However, the labels have become a beloved feature of the town. They appear in the logos of local businesses, solidifying their status as a town emblem. Located between the two exits that lead into St. Clair from Interstate 44, the towers serve as a quirky visual alert for travelers.

The towers also reflect St. Clair’s practical response to its geographical challenges. Since the town is on a ridge, it needed a municipal water system not just for residents but for fire safety as well. The town’s ingenuity in managing its water supply is a source of pride for locals.

St. Clair’s sense of humor is mirrored in other nearby towns, such as Bourbon.

“Their water tower has a double meaning because it’s the town name, plus it looks like the water tower [is full of bourbon],” Schaper said.

The St. Clair Historical Museum offers further insights into the town’s past. Located at 560 S Main St., the museum is open every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and by appointment on other days.