pride of the windy city: the buckingham fountain

Towering at 23 feet in the air, the Buckingham Fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world.

about the buckingham fountain

The Buckingham Fountain is one of the many landmarks that are usually associated with the great city of Chicago. It is located in Grant Park which can be found right at the heart of downtown Chicago. Since the fountain is surrounded by a traditionally maintained English garden, it’s no wonder why Grant Park is also considered as the city’s “front lawn.”

Towering at 23 feet in the air, the Buckingham Fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world. It is designed with three basin layers which are surrounded by four pairs of bronze-made seahorses. The fountain is said to symbolize Lake Michigan while the four pairs of seahorses represent the four states that border the lake: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois. 

The funding for the construction of the Buckingham Fountain was made possible in 1927 by Kate Buckingham who wanted to have a fountain built in the honor and memory of her brother Clarence Buckingham. After spending much of her life as a world traveler, Kate Buckingham learned to greatly admire the elaborate public fountains she encountered in her travels and wanted to bring a piece of her travels to the states. She had particularly admired the Bassin de Latome which is located at the Versailles Palace just outside Paris. This led her to commission Edward H. Bennett to build a similar fountain.

Similar to the features found in Grant Park, Bennett championed water and park features to be built throughout the U.S. During his lifetime, Bennett pursued other artistic endeavors such as the Michigan Avenue Bridge and city plans for Ottawa, Brooklyn, Oregon, Portland and Detroit.

Another name worthy of recognition is Marcel F. Loyau who was responsible for creating the bronze  seahorse sculptures that adorn the fountain. Loyau’s contribution to the fountain’s sculptural elements earned him an award at the Prix National in the 1927 Paris Salon.  

The fountain is built with a trio of pumps that power 133 jets with the central jet forcing water of up to 150 feet into the air. Measuring 280 feet in diameter, the central jet contains 1.4 millions of water and pumps up to 14,000 gallons of water in every minute.

The Buckingham Fountain, which currently contains 820 lights, is one of the first to have an integrated lighting system. Between the months of April and November, the fountain performs a large water display every 20 minutes which runs between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Light shows begin at 9 p.m. and run for around 60 minutes. During the winter months, the Buckingham Fountain is drained to prevent damage brought by freezing water.

Whether you are a true blue Chicago resident or a visitor who is just dropping by, the Buckingham Fountain is indeed a great diversion from Chicago’s busy skyline, exuding a bit of European charm in the middle of the windy city.