By Mike Steely
Water towers around our nation can be unusual, either in shape or how they are painted.
In Collinsville, Illinois, there’s a water tower in the shape of a ketchup bottle. Happy faces smile from water towers in several states and at least two states have tea pot water towers. Rochester, Minnesota, has a water tower in the shape of a corn cob that was erected in 1931 and South Carolina has the famous peach tower near Gaffney. La Crosse, Wisconsin, has what is claimed to be the largest six pack of beer cans painted on water tanks there. Camden, NJ, has a water tower painted like a Campbell soup can.
In east Tennessee, between Sevierville and Newport, there’s an overlooked and fairly new water tank at the Bush’s Beans factory on Highway 411. Most people know of the visitor center there with its museum and large walk-through bean can but across the road, over in the factory, is a huge round water tank painted just like a Bush’s Beans can. Is it the largest bean can in our nation? Probably.
Actually the water tank is not painted, it’s wrapped, according to Vandra Carpenter at Bush Headquarters here in Knoxville.
My wife and I took a weekend drive recently on a Sunday morning and, although the visitor center and museum were closed, we stopped to stretch our legs and take some photos.
That’s when I noticed the large Bush Beans water tank over in the large company facility across the road. I took some photos and became curious. The tank plays a vital part in the company’s water reuse efforts.
Carpenter said the tank is 60 feet tall and 41 feet in diameter and holds 590,000 gallons of water. She said it was wrapped when the tank was installed two years ago. The new Highway 411 comes right behind the Bush facility and she said it will make a great advertisement for the farm and the visitor center.
She said no one knows if it’s the “largest bean can” in the world but that could be a claim the family-owned company could make.
Bush Brothers & Company is America’s largest manufacturer of prepared beans. In 2020 it was recognized for Evoqua’s annual Water Sustainability Award after demonstrating multiple noteworthy improvements in its water sustainability efforts. The family-owned business was founded more than 110 years ago in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, and consistently aims to reduce its impact on the community.
In 2010, the old A.J. Bush & Company general store was expanded into a museum and visitor center and the gift shop incorporates the store’s original ceilings and walls. Despite the out-of-the-way location, the museum churns through a thousand visitors a day during the summer.
If you’re interested in visiting the Bush’s Visitor Center and Family Cafe you can get there without ever touching the interstate highway. From Knoxville you can take Highway 11E, Andrew Johnson Highway, to where it splits and taking a right along Highway 25W. You can follow it all the way to near Newport and then turn right on Highway 411. It’s not far from there and you’ll find the visitor center on the left and the plant on the right.
You can also find the attraction online at www.bushbeans.com or call them at (865)509-3077. Take the family and a camera, it’s an interesting place.