Tulare hopes for fresh paint on trademark water tower

Ben Irwin

Tulare’s “glass of milk” is due for an inspection, prompting city and cultural foundation to consider touching up artwork

TULARE – Tulare’s trademark water tower is due for an inspection and a paint job, and the consensus at the April 6 city council meeting was to touch up and preserve the glass of milk rather than paint over the dairy drum.

Don Labaron, a member of the Tulare Cultural Art Foundation, was a part of the committee that originally commissioned the water tower to be painted back in 2004.

“I called it a scar in the sky, because it was just that big, silver scar in the sky,” Labaron. “Now, because of the community effort and the city’s effort, we turned it into something we can all be proud of.”

Labaron and the cultural arts committee were able to raise around $40,000 and get local artist Colleen Chronister on board to take her talents up to the highest point in Tulare.

Chronister spent three days detailing the lines and bubbles on the now-iconic glass of milk by way of crane, Labaron said, lifted up in a basket to spend the day painting high in the sky. A local welding shop was commissioned to fabricate the straw and triple weld it to the top of the water tower.

The glass of milk—while it is a century-old relic built in 1913 by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company—still provides function for the city. Tulare Water and Wastewater Collections Utility Manager Tim Doyle said the 125,000 gallon water storage tower provides fire protection and acts as a shock absorber for pressure changes from the various wells turning on and off in the water system.

Doyle said inspection is routine every 5-10 years, where they will look to make sure the structure is still sound, clean the interior and any rust found, as well as check all the safety equipment, ladders and handrails.

Council asked City Manager Rob Hunt to return with a cost estimate for painting before moving forward. Hunt said he would need more time than by the next council meeting for groups to coordinate.

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