Hot and Cold Water Towers – Ruleville, Mississippi

Ruleville’s water towers

photography by: Magnolia677/ Wikimedia Commons

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The low-key townlet of Ruleville MS is best known for its cotton industry and even more so as the birthplace of human right activist Fannie Lou Hamer. As it turns out, though, the small city is also home to a rather bizarre curiosity, a pair of water towers entitled Hot and Cold respectively.

Located in Mississippi’s Sunflower County, Ruleville is one of multiple small towns that dot the state’s agricultural heartland. Established in the late 19th century as a stop along the then newly constructed Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad, this rural community served as a hub for the regional cotton industry, with dozens of plantations within its confines.


Like many towns across the region, most of Ruleville’s cotton-picking laborers were African-Americans who struggled to make ends meet. During the 1960’s, one of whom, Fannie Lou Hamer became a prominent member of the civil rights movement for advocating to end any discriminatory measures against blacks, particularly in the voting process. She came under the national spotlight after her famous televised speech “Is this America” at the 1964’s Democratic Convention, where she shared her personal experiences of racial injustice.


While Lou Hamer’s grave is perhaps Ruleville’s most notable place of interest, another relic of the town’s ample cotton production baffled passersby for the past decade or so. Rising over the town’s verdant fields are two water towers which might seem identical at first. However, a closer look will reveal otherwise as one tank is marked as “Hot” while the other as “Cold”, suggesting that the water temperature fluctuates between the two (hint: it’s not).


Originally built in the early 1920’s to supply water for a cotton compress system, the two towers were left in tatters for years as the local industry declined. That is, until one resident by the name of Billy Marlowe decided to transform the decaying facility into a whimsical oddity by repainting its surface with “Hot” and “Cold” labels. Nowadays, only one tower is still in use, supplying water for firefighters and sprinklers.


Best viewed by drivers along Highway no.8, Ruleville’s pair of water towers are apparently only one of tens of similarly painted structures across the US, including Okemah OK, Garrison ND and St. Clair MO, just to name a few.


Hot and Cold, Water Tower, Ruleville MS