There is no set date to kick off Chicago’s fountain season, so even when the sun is shining in early spring, it may be a few weeks before the famous Buckingham Fountain can be enjoyed with Lake Michigan in the background. After all, Mother Nature doesn’t wear a wristwatch. Fortunately, weather and construction permitting, most of the city’s major waterworks are anticipated to be turned on during the first week of May. We’ve splashed around the Windy City to gather a list of some of the loveliest fountains it has to offer.
Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain in Grant Park
The mother of all Chicago fountains and one of the largest in the world, Buckingham Fountain was financed by wealthy socialite Kate Buckingham as a memorial to her brother. Completed in summer 1927 at a cost of $750,000, the fountain displays a 20-minute water show on the hour, every hour, shooting water 150 feet into the air. At night, it’s aglow with 820 lights, producing an effect of “soft moonlight,” just as Kate Buckingham envisioned.
Crown Fountain in Millennium Park
During the hot summer months, this is the spot for the city’s kids to play around and cool off. Designed by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, the fountain is made up of two massive 50-foot-tall glass-brick towers with LED displays flashing faces of Chicagoans who appear to be spouting water from their mouths. The waterworks collect in a wide, shallow pool perfect for summer lollygagging.
Botanical Gardens Fountain in Chicago Women’s Park & Gardens
One of the city’s newer parks was designed with a beautiful classical aesthetic, down to its Botanical Gardens Fountain, which was completed in 1999. Nestled within the city’s Prairie Avenue Historic District, this park and its focal fountain nod toward the city’s early architecture — grand gestures with elegant details.
Eli Bates Fountain in Lincoln Park
Initially named Storks At Play, one of Chicago’s oldest fountains was funded by wealthy businessman Eli Bates and commonly borrows his name. Completed in 1887 as the centerpiece of Lincoln Park’s formal garden, the hefty fountain stars a handful of whimsical birds spouting water from their beaks.
McCormick Fountain in Washington Square Park
Facing gorgeous Newberry Library in the middle of what most Chicagoans call Bughouse Square, McCormick Fountain was erected in 1906 and reconstructed to its Victorian glory in 1999. Like a lot of things in Chicago, it’s named for Colonel Robert McCormick, grandson of Chicago Tribune founder Joseph Medill, who forfeited his alderman’s salary and donated it toward civic improvement.
Photos courtesy of iStock - Chris Pritchard