Historic Structures

Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower, Collinsville Illinois

Date added: June 14, 2021 Categories: Illinois Special and Unique Roadside Attraction

There is not a lot of information on the early history of the Brooks Catsup Factory. What is known is that by 1908, a plant was bought by the Brooks brothers, Everette and Elgin, who changed its name from the Collinsville Canning and Packing Company to the Triumph Pickle Company, By 1912, the brothers were the major officers of the company and changed its name once again to the Brooks Tomato Products Company. In 1925, the Brooks Tomato Products Company signed up more than 400 acres of tomatoes and 18 acres of string beans. The Collinsville Herald February 17, 1925 issue noted, "that this amount of tomatoes will be more than this local plant can process."

In 1927 the Suppiger Company in Belleville, Illinois, took the overflow of tomatoes from the Brooks company. Gerhart Suppiger, the company's founder, had been the Secretary and General Manager of the Brooks Company since 1914. In 1933 the Suppiger Company purchased the Brooks Company. All the canning operations were incorporated into the Collinsville factory. The Brooks label and name were retained because Brooks Catsup had been an established product since before World War I and the label was familiar to the public. The demand for Brooks Catsup grew so large that by 1940 the company built a second canning factory in Converse, Indiana. In 1941, a third canning operation was begun in Mt. Summit, Indiana. Two other plants were added to the company by 1951. In 1952 the net sales of Brook's products was $8,155,800.00.

In 1947, Suppiger entered into a contract with Caldwell Tanks of Louisville, Kentucky, to build a 100,000 gallon water tower for the Collinsville factory. Final drawings were approved in 1948 and the water tower was completed in 1949. The water tower was needed for plant operations and to supply water to the new fire protection sprinkler system. Gerhart S. Suppiger, then president of the company, suggested the tower be built in the distinctive tapered shape of one of the catsup bottles: "...the G. S. Suppiger company president came into [Caldwell Tank's main office,] dropping a box on the president's desk. 'We make ketchup', the somewhat imperious officer announced. 'I want a water tank that looks like this. Build it.' No contract; but Caldwell Tank Co. did indeed build it - and without any specs". Everyone back then was amused by the idea.

By 1959 the Suppiger Company merged with the Ritter Company, a larger eastern operation. Brooks Catsup left Collinsville, leaving behind its factory buildings and its Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower. The tower sat idle and decaying, the home of pigeons, iutil in 1993 a group of concerned local residents raised $80,000.00 to restore the Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower to its original splendor through T-shirt sales, donation solicitations, silent auctions and other fundraisers.

Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower, Collinsville Illinois General view looking toward the catsup bottle shaped water tank
General view looking toward the catsup bottle shaped water tank

Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower, Collinsville Illinois Closer view of the tower and bottle-shaped tank
Closer view of the tower and bottle-shaped tank

Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower, Collinsville Illinois Close view of the Brooks Catsup Bottle
Close view of the Brooks Catsup Bottle