The Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain
The Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain, one of the largest in the world, is located at Columbus Drive (301 East) and Congress Parkway (500 South) in Grant Park and runs from 8 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, typically from early May through mid-October, depending on the weather. Display times are subject to change during special events in Grant Park.
For years, the fountain was entirely manually operated by two stationary engineers who each worked a daily twelve-hour shift. Historically, the major water displays occurred only twice a day, three times a week. These displays were so popular that they began to be offered every day in the late 1950s. The engineers’ job became even more involved at night. They used a keyboard with twenty-one electric switches that could fade, brighten, and blend colors to create numerous light effects. Although the light show was first automated in 1968, the water continued to be manually operated until 1980, when the operations were fully computerized. From 1983 to 1994, the fountain’s computer monitoring system was located in Atlanta; however, today the computer is located on site and monitoring takes place in a Chicago suburb. In 1994, the Buckingham Fountain underwent a major conservation project that addressed some of its masonry problems. Buckingham Fund of the Art Institute and the Chicago Park District cooperatively funded the project. Between 2009 and 2012 additional repairs were made including landscape improvements surrounding the monument, plumbing upgrades, and computer upgrades.
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