Situated just south of downtown Collinsville, Illinois, the world’s largest Catsup bottle stands tall and proud. Completed in October 1949 as the water tower for a now-shuttered Brooks Foods plant at a cost exceeding $23,000, the 170-foot-tall water tower still advertises Brooks’ original rich and tangy catsup.
If filled with catsup, the 70-foot monument, which sits on top of a 100-foot stand, would hold up to 640,000 standard-size bottles. Instead, it holds 100,000 gallons of water. “Since we were going to have to build the tank, we thought we might as well have it look like something,” said Gerhart Suppinger Jr. of the Brooks Tomato Products Co. when the company decided to erect the bottle.
Through local preservation efforts, the tower was saved and restored to its original glory in 1995 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. To raise more than $70,000 in restoration funds for sandblasting and painting the bottle and installing lighting, volunteers sold 6,000 shirts and solicited donations from across the country.Each July, the town celebrates the Catsup Bottle Festival, which is a charming example of small-town fun and excitement. Highlights include the eating and hula hoop contests, a well-attended car show, the Little Princess Tomato and Sir Catsup Contest, and live entertainment.
The giant bottle, a winner of Midwest Living’s Hometown Pride Awards Program in 1995, is a wonderful representation of quirky mid-20th century roadside Americana and is an easy 20-minute drive from more well-known tourist destinations (such as the Gateway Arch) in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.
Know Before You Go
Head south of downtown Collinsville on Illinois Hwy. 159. Take Collinsville Exit 159 off of I-55/70. The bottle is located 20 minutes from the Gateway Arch and downtown St. Louis, MO.