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The Florence Y'all Water Tower is an approximately 1 million US gallons (3,800 m3) water tower owned by the city of Florence, Kentucky that stands between the Florence Mall and interstate highways 75 and 71. where it is seen by millions of interstate motorists annually. Originally painted with the words "FLORENCE MALL" in giant letters, legal questions were raised, and a change was mandated. The solution was to change the "M" to a "Y" followed by an apostrophe.
The Florence Y'all water tower in Florence is situated in Boone County in northern Kentucky, host to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), with runway 18L/36R located almost exactly due north of the tower. The tower is beside Mall Circle Road northeast of the mall, next to I-75 and I-71 which is joined to I-75 between Cincinnati and Walton to the south. The red and white stripes on the tower converge toward the center on the top in a spoke pattern, easily visible from favorably situated persons in airplanes. (There were no spokes on the original version.)
The land for the tower was donated to the city by the mall developers with the stipulation that the words "Florence Mall" be painted on it in view of interstate motorists. The tower was constructed in the early 1970s by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1974, the Virginia Erection Co. was contracted to paint the words "Florence Mall" to advertise the innovative two-story enclosed Mall style shopping center, which was not officially opened until September 1976. A number of legal questions were raised, such as using city property to advertise a private business, and the obvious fact that the sign advertised something that did not yet exist. The city of Florence was informed by the Bureau of Highways in July 1974 that the signage was in violation of state law restricting how tall a sign promoting a business could be. Many solutions were suggested, including everything from the obvious repainting of the tower, to covering the structure with a large tarpaulin. No inexpensive options seemed available.
With time running out to comply with the law, civil staff met for a brainstorming session at the Stringtown Restaurant with the late C.M. "Hop" Ewing (d.2006) then Mayor of Florence, who "sketched different ideas on a napkin" until he devised the idea of removing the vertical lines at the sides of the M in MALL, adding a stem to make it a Y; becoming Y'ALL. Ewing himself admitted at the time that it was a "corny solution, but cost effective". The city paid $472 to the W.T. Marx Company of nearby Cincinnati, Ohio to make the changes; whereas a complete repaint would have been nearly three times as much. With the completion of the modified paint job, the landmark was born. As a general rule, water towers are cleaned every five years and repainted every ten years, so the original modified Y-apostrophe is no longer evident. When repainted in May/June 2011, the manager of the Boone-Florence Water Commission said, "The tower is repainted every eight to 12 years as needed".
The extra publicity surrounding the Florence Y'all tower advertised the Mall better than a passive sign alone. On the opening day shoppers, "jammed the Ky. 18 exit off I-75 in the autumn of 1976 to get their first glimpse of the new Florence Mall."
The tower is an instantly recognizable landmark, even inspiring the naming of the annual Florence festival to the "Florence Y'all" fest around Labor Day. The number of items with the words "Florence Y'all" continue to grow, from simple lapel pins, bumper stickers, mousepads and postcards, to T-shirts and a large inflatable "Wally The Watertower" mascot for the Florence Freedom baseball team, and even Florence Y'all water tower Bobblehead dolls. Florence's World of Golf has a Florence Y'all replica in the miniature golf area. The new "Soft Play" area in Florence Mall features a replica of the tower.