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Buckingham Fountain

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Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park
Location Chicago
Area Downtown Chicago
Architect Burnham, Daniel H.; Bennett, Edward H.
Architectural style Beaux Arts, Art Decomo
Governing body Chicago Park District
Part of Grant Park (#92001075)
Added to NRHP July 21, 1993

Buckingham Fountain is a Chicago landmark in the center of Grant Park. Dedicated in 1927, it is one of the largest fountains in the world. Built in a rococo wedding cake style and inspired by the Latona Fountain at the Palace of Versailles, it is meant to allegorically represent Lake Michigan. It operates from April to October, with regular water shows and evening color-light shows. During the winter, the fountain is decorated with festival lights.


Buckingham Fountain

The fountain is considered Chicago's front door, since it resides in Grant Park, the city's front yard near the intersection of Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway. The fountain itself represents Lake Michigan, with each sea horse symbolizing the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, that border the lake. The fountain was designed by beaux arts architect Edward H. Bennett. The statues were created by the French sculptor Marcel F. Loyau. The design of the fountain was inspired by the Bassin de Latome and modeled after Latona Fountain at Versailles.

The fountain was donated to the city by Kate Buckingham in memory of her brother, Clarence Buckingham, and was constructed at a cost of $750,000. The fountain's official name is the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain. Kate Buckingham also established the Buckingham Fountain Endowment Fund with an initial investment of $300,000 to pay for maintenance.[1] Buckingham Fountain was dedicated on August 26, 1927.


Many tourists and Chicagoans visit the fountain each year. The fountain operates daily 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. from mid-April through mid-October. Water shows occur every hour on-the-hour and last 20 minutes. During shows, the center jet shoots up vertically to 150 feet (46 m) and after dusk, shows are choreographed with lights and music. The last show begins at 10:00 p.m. nightly.[1]

The fountain is constructed of Georgia pink marble and contains 1,500,000 U.S. gallons (5,700,000 L) of water. During a display, more than 14,000 U.S. gallons per minute (0.88 m3/s) are pushed through its 193 jets. The bottom pool of the fountain is 280 ft (85 m) in diameter, the lower basin is 103 ft (31 m), the middle basin is 60 ft (18 m) and the upper basin is 24 ft (7.3 m). The lip of the upper basin is 25 ft (7.6 m) above the water in the lower basin.

The fountain's pumps are controlled by a [1]

Buckingham Fountain panorama


Fountain in winter

In 1994, the fountain received a $2.8 million restoration to its three smallest basins which developed leaks due to Chicago's harsh winters.[2]

Surrounded by seasonal plantings and gardens, the fountain periodically shoots water high into the air.

The latest renovation project on Buckingham Fountain began in September 2008. This three-phase project will modernize aging internal systems in the fountain and restore deteriorated features. Funding is a combination from the Buckingham endowment, city and park district funds and a grant from the Lollapalooza music festival which is held annually near the fountain.[2]

Phase I was dedicated April 3, 2009.[3] This phase included permeable pavers to surround the fountain. This replaced the crushed stone that was used since the fountain was constructed. The pavers make a safer and smoother surface and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Phase II began in the winter of 2009.[4] This phase included the demolition of the fountain table, installation of extensive underdrainage system, new landscaping, site lighting, signs, site furnishings, sewer system, selective demolition within or adjacent to the fountain's outer basin, repairs of some existing cast-in-place concrete elements and installation of new cast-in-place elements. Work was not completed due to lack of funds and the Chicago Park District has not announced when it expects to finish this phase.[5]

Phase III updates have not been scheduled until Phase II projects are completed. This phase will include the restoration of Buckingham Fountain and fountain table, the construction of a new equipment room with selective demolition, structural construction and repair, masonry restoration and repair, mechanical and electrical work, bronze restoration and repair and installation of site improvements and amenities.

In popular culture

Buckingham Fountain on a poster

Buckingham Fountain was the eastern terminus of U.S. Route 66.[6]

The Fountain was featured in the title sequence of Married...with Children.[6]

The Fountain was also featured in the title sequence of the 1987-1996 sitcom Horsin' Around

The Fountain was the starting point for the television show The Amazing Race 6 in 2004.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Buckingham Fountain". Chicago Park District. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  2. ^ a b Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah (16 July 2008). "Buckingham Fountain's $25 million renovation to begin after Labor Day". Chicago Tribune ( 
  3. ^ "Mayor Daley Celebrates Season Opening of Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain" (Press release). Chicago Park District. 3 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  4. ^ "Special Buckingham Fountain Friday Tours Return This Summer" (Press release). Chicago Park District. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  5. ^ Glenn Jeffers (26 May 2010). "Buckingham Fountain project waits for funding". Chicago Tribune ( Retrieved 2011-06-09. 
  6. ^ a b c "Buckingham Fountain". Destination Retrieved 2008-09-19. 

External links

  • Chicago Landmarks: Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain and Garden
  • Chicago Park District: Buckingham Fountain
  • Restore Buckingham Fountain

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