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Bold Storage

Southern California's memory tanks

January 18, 1998|Jim Heimann

Vernon has one. So do South Gate, Norwalk and South Pasadena. Most of the film studios do, too. Subtle industrial landmarks that seem more Midwest than West Coast, our water towers do double duty as civic signposts, celebrating communities and sometimes vanished corporate benefactors. (Not Los Angeles, though, which stores its water in reservoirs and tanks.)

The City of Hawthorne, to cite a distinctive example, redesigned its tower in 1958 to reflect the era's postwar optimism. Painted turquoise and structurally modified, it resembles a giant golf ball on an immense tee. More recently, Sony Pictures transformed the old MGM water tower on its Culver City lot into a gleaming neon-rimmed Saturn, while over in Burbank, Warner Bros. embellished its (nonfunctioning) water tower with its classic electric-blue "WB" shield.

Given our region's historic dependence on importing and hoarding water, the towers are some of the few local landmarks that preservationists can probably put on the back burner.

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