A monument to marketing ingenuity and a regional landmark, a 141-foot-tall cylinder emblazoned with the images of the likes of Big Bird and Elmo has informed motorists on I-295 for three decades that they might be well on their way to Sesame Place.
But for the last five years, that signature structure in Langhorne has had a lower-profile career — that of a useless water tower — and its days are numbered. Its owner, the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority, has decided it has to go.
The water authority, which acquired the tower in 2003, undertook an analysis and “determined that it was no longer needed,” spokesperson Brian Dries said in an email Wednesday. The authority decided that two tanks near Neshaminy High School were better options, and the Sesame Place tower was decommissioned in 2017.
The authority has been “inspecting it periodically for structural stability,” he said, and recently concluded “it would not last another season without significant work.”
Sesame Place — with a theme, of course, built around the venerable children’s show Sesame Street, and one of the region’s most visited amusement parks — declined an offer to purchase the tower, Dries said.
He added that demolition is “anticipated” during the summer.
The tower long provided benefits for Middletown Township, the host municipality, and, especially Sesame Place, which opened in 1980.
The tower was a mere functioning eyesore until 1993, when the water authority, Middletown, and the amusement park entities entered into an agreement to have it painted, according to an Inquirer article. That was back when that stretch of road was part of I-95.
The paint job later was replaced by a vinyl covering, arranged and funded by Sesame Place and its sponsors, said Nick Valla, the township’s assistant manager.
The amusement park put up a one-time fee of $45,000 and agreed to pay $1,000 a year for the township’s water fund.That ended when the water authority bought the tower, which is situated on land owned by Viking Partners Bucks, LLC, Valla said.
For its trouble, Sesame Place had acquired a dramatic marker that visitors — or anyone else passing by in a vehicle for that matter — couldn’t miss.
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At the time the deal was the envy of local billboard company officials, one of whom estimated that Sesame Place might have had to pay five times that much for a billboard of that size. And since it wasn’t technically a billboard, certain advertising restrictions didn’t apply.
For its part, Sesame Place says it will miss the tower for reasons that transcend business.
“While we support the decision ... to remove the tower,” spokesperson Meagan Passero said in an email, “we at Sesame Place, along with our fans, will be sad to see it go.”