$1 million needed to fund Hamburg(er) Water Tower

Latest on the transformation of Hamburg's Water Tower

Mike Baggerman
May 13, 2019 - 3:00 am

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman

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HAMBURG, N.Y. (WBEN) - It's been six months since the "cheesy" design for the Hamburg Water Tower was unveiled. However, the tower that is seen by drivers along Southwestern Boulevard, South Park Avenue, and I-90, is still untouched.

The old, blue and rusted tower will be transformed into a massive burger, with buns, a patty, condiments, and toppings.

Hamburger Water Tower Committee Chair Chris Hannotte Luly told WBEN that their organization is still finalizing approval as a non-profit organization with the IRS by next month. After that, she said they have a lot of fundraising to do.

"The price tag that we have right now is $1 million," Hannotte said. "Which sounds wildly expensive. But the thing of it is, there's lead-based paint on that water tower. Rather than just do an overcoat, we want to do it right. We want to make sure we get longevity out of this paint job. So that means a total replacement. Sandblasting it right down to the raw steel."

Next month, the committee will set up a PayPal and GoFundMe to raise the funds. Hannotte also said the organization has multiple corporate sponsors who are backing the project. They will also hold a family fundraiser on August 11 and participate in July's Burger Fest in Hamburg.

No tax dollars will be used on the project.

Hamburger Water Tower design. Photo courtesy of Chris Hannotte

"Let me say, emphatically, that this is an economic development opportunity through tourism," she said while noting similar projects like the giant peach in Gaffney, South Carolina (which was featured in Netflix's House of Cards), a giant ketchup bottle in Collinsville, Illinois, and a giant pineapple at the Dole Plantation in Hawaii.. "This is our chance to put Buffalo on the map more than ever."

The current tower is owned by the Town of Hamburg, who bought it from the Erie County Water Authority several years ago. It has no water in it and is being used as cell phone towers.

Hannotte said the vast majority of people she's spoken to are in support of the project, though there are some on social media who are critical of the project because of its absurdity.

"We got well over 2,000 signatures on a petition that we circulated," she said. "It was like selling girl scout cookies. For every 25 signatures I got, maybe one person was a skeptic."

There's also the long debate over whether the hamburger was "invented" in Hamburg. It's believed the burger was first brought to the Erie County Fair in 1885 by Frank and Charles Menches from Canton, Ohio. Others who claimed to invent hamburgers include "Hamburger Charlie" of Seymour, Wisconsin, "Old Dave" of Athens, Texas, or possibly a peasant in medieval times (unverified by WBEN). 

"Hamburgers are an iconic American food," Hannotte said. "We've got Weber Mustard located here, Sahlen Hot Dogs, Ted's, Anderson's, why not have this hamburger? Again, it will help put us more prominently on the map."

Tourists spent $1.8 billion in 2017 according to Visit Buffalo Niagara.. Hannotte believes the water tower will only add to that.

"If we paint it, they will come"

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