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Work of the Lorado Taft Fountain of Time Basin Restoration Committee

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website and Preservation and Development/Zoning task force. Join the Conference: your dues support our work.

Fountain of Time figures from ttssouth side. George Rumsey

Visit the Allison Davis Garden page. This overlook to the Fountain from the east was dedicated September 17, 2005.
To a fascinating website on Fountains of the World.

Chicago Park District hopes the contest will enable them to install lighting on the Fountain of Time, not only to enhance its beauty, but also to deter vandalism on the newly-restored landmark. See more details at this link on the Park District website:

August 18. Mayor Daley presided over dedication of Taft's Fountain of Time and Reflecting Basin restoration. Honored were the many contributors including the National Trust program, Chicago Park District and Parkways Foundation, the Basin Committee, University of Chicago, Allison Davis family, the chief restorer and staff, and many others. The Mayor asked for lighting so the sculpture can be seen at night.

June 7 2005 2,000 CPS students converged to give presentations, read their own and other poems on the theme of "time" and see dance and other performances, for Poetry Month (May) collaboration of CPS, Park District, and the Poetry Foundation at Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time. Taft was a close friend of Harriet Monroe of Poetry Magazine. The event also called attention to need to raise the last amount to restore and seal the basin at the Fountain of Time. In addition to students' readings of their poems, Henry Dobson's "Paradox of Time" and Gwendolyn Brooks' "Speech to the Young" were read (Brooks's daughter participating). (Taft envisioned the Fountain of Time upon exposure to Dobson's poem in 1907.) The selected students' poems will be published in a special fall issue of Poetry and all placed in a time capsule (what else?) at the Fountain of Time. This Poetry Foundation event was funded from a $100 million gift from Eli Lilly heiress Ruth Lilly. The event was also intended to call attention to Taft's Fountain of Time, including needed final work on the Basin to protect the main work.

The Basin committee currently seeks $150,000 to make sure the job is kept right. Contributions are invited, via Parkways Foundation FOT Fund, 541 N. Fairbanks Ct., Chicago, IL 60611.
Basin Committee Fact Sheet

Fountain of Time figures- front from the south side where aged figures are overwhelmed by the waves of time. Note condition of basin. George Rumsey. See more views below and in the Washington Park page. More on the FOT in Trish Morse's Midway Virtual Tour site.

The Fountain of Time is located in the southeast corner of Washington Park west of the Allison Davis Garden belvedere and the Midway Plaisance extended. (59th and Cottage Grove). Constructed in 1922, the fountain was to be matched by a Fountain of Creation at the east end of the Midway and several other sculptures and a canal through the Midway. The backdrop for Time is the lagoons of Washington Park. Although funds are largely in place and work is in progress, much more difficulty was found in sealing and repairing the basin that was expected.

Why did this restoration project take so long? Scarity of technical information about the structure, ill-advised former restorations, unknown territory as to what would work, lack of materials--some of these were only available in one short timeframe, or found by chance at one location. Fortunately, the sand on the orginal site (whether primeval postglacial or fill from the Olmsted/Cleveland improvement of the park) had been used for the fountain and more at the site could be used--and it was the only suitable sand to avoid structural and color problems. One of the biggest headaches in restoration and in fixing the basin (which had not been filled in over 50 years) was how to prevent future water seepage. Note, the work was finished and fences gone, but the pool is only filled a small part of the year.

A community-wide consortium of represented organizations has been formed to fund-raise to match $2 earmarked funding to restore the Reflecting Pool (Howard Van Doren Shaw) at Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time in Washington Park near the Midway. Parts deemed salvageable by an architectural firm must be rebuilt according to historic specifications. This work is urgent to prevent re-deterioration of the concrete sculpture itself since the crumbled cement lets water seep up the walls of the Fountain of Time. Large chunks of the basin wall are gone, the cement floor is cracked and plumbing currently unusable. There is already a substantial National Trust /Save America's Treasures grant, a UC contribution of $100,000, and Park District funding; other grants are being sought, and the community group seeks to raise c. $150,000 from the community. Leaders included Melissa Cook and (formerly) Judith Bromley. Park District staff included Julia Bachrach. $15,000 was raised by this organization.

Great news: the Chicago Park District increased its commitment to $845,000.The total budget including the completed work on the sculpture is increased to $2.2 million. Melissa Cook wrote:

While the article indicates the Park District's commitment to complete the restoration, the citizens' effort to raise $100,000 is still part of the picture to achieve the goal, and I believe the Park District needs $150,000 in order to finish the project in 2005. The newspaper account does indicate a higher budget than the $1 million we had been told previously, and I think this is because $100,000 in lighting and landscaping has been added to the plans.

[writes Melissa Cook].


Fountain of Time Basin Committee Fact Sheet (mid 2004)

One of Chicago's most important sculptural fountains is in need of conservation.
The Fountain of Time, masterpiece of renowned Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936), is composed of concrete and has suffered the ravages of time. Completed in 1922, and located in close proximity to Taft's famed Midway Studios, the work is composed of a crag-like figure of Father Time watching over a procession of 100 human figures, with a symbolic reflecting pool in between. Over the years, Chicago's freeze/thaw cycle and pollution, along with poor patches and repairs done years ago, caused tremendous harm to this great artwork.

Although significant conservation has already taken place, the condition of the basin threatens the integrity of the monument.
In 2002, the Chicago Park District and the Art Institute of Chicago's B. F. Ferguson Fund completed a $1 million project to conserve the monuments's sculptural figures. While the sculptural components have been conserved, the basin (designed for Taft by noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw) remains in severely deteriorated condition. Water penetrating through the basin seeps up the walls of the monument and threatens the integrity of the conserved sculptural components.

The Chicago Park District received a Save America's Treasures Grant to conduct the final phase of the project.
The National Park Service, National Endowment for the Arts and the Smithsonian Institution jointly sponsor the Save America's Treasures Program to help preserve the nation's most important artworks, historic resource, and museum collections. The Chicago Park District was awarded $250,000 for the Fountain of Time Basin Conservation. This was the largest NEA grant awarded in 2004.

The total budget for the project is $1 million.
The $250,000 Safe America's Treasures grant will provide only one-fourth of the needed funding. The University of Chicago has pledged $100,000, and the Chicago Park District has pledged the remaining portion of the budget between 2004 and 2005. Due to the difficult economic times, a committee of citizens, The Fountain of Time Basin Committee, is being formed with a goal of raising $100,000 to apply to the balance of $650,000 required from the Chicago Park District. This public effort is also intended to honor Taft's role as a preservationist and promoter of the arts among the general public in his own era. Individuals interested in hearing more about this citizens' committee in formation are encouraged to call Hyde Park community member Melissa Cook at 773-684-5239 for information.

The Parkways Foundation will be the fiscal agent for the Fountain of Time Basin Committee.
The Parkways Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the work of the Chicago Park District, will accept the donations for this project. Donations are tax deductible, and all of the money raised will go toward the Fountain of Time restoration. Checks should be made to THE PARKWAYS FOUNDATION, with "Fountain of Time Basin Restoration" written on the memo line, and mailed to the Parkways Foundation at 541 N. Fairbanks, 8th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611. Donors should include a note listing the exact manner in which their name(s) should appear in any published list of contributors.

The restoration project [was] scheduled for completion in the summer of 2005, [though little seemed to be happening in August].
Conservation work was done in the summer of 2004, while fundraising efforts are underway. The restoration project is scheduled for completion by the fall 2005. Members of the Fountain of Time Committee, donors, and public figures will be invited to participate in the dedication.

You would not know from across the busy drive that a fountain basin lies between Father Time and the Procession of Humanity. Note That some work is underway as start of restoring and sealing the basin. Other views are from the back side. Photos Gary Ossewaarde

Fountain of Time basin with work started
Fountain of Time from  north end of  procession
Fountain of Time procession from west side 1
Fountain of Time procession from west side 2
Foundtain of Time fdrom north end (creation) side
Fountain of Time from west- arch of time to past zenith