Remember the great mid-90s show Married… with Children? Excellent television right there. Well, you may recall during the opening credits a very large fountain, just before the scene cuts to Al Bundy bumming on the couch. That, my friends, is Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain.
One of the largest fountains in the world, this Chicago landmark has held its place in Grant Park for over 80 years. It’s a structure to marvel at, and its prime location provides for beautiful views of both the lake and the city skyline.
After traveling Europe and developing a love for the wonderful fountains found in almost every corner of every town, Chicago citizen Kate Buckingham put into action a plan to create one of the world’s most beautiful fountains in her very own city. She commissioned Buckingham Fountain as a gift to the city and a way to memorialize her late brother, Clarence, dedicating the landmark to the people of Chicago on August 26, 1927. At the same time, a trust fund was created to ensure that taxpayers would never have to cover the repair and upkeep costs associated with the fountain.
Designed by Edward H. Bennett with the Latona Fountain of Versailles in mind, the structure is made of Georgia pink marble. The fountain stands in the middle of downtown’s largest park, Grant Park, and overlooks the lake it is meant to symbolize. The four sea horses perched in the water are an ode to the four states that touch the Lake Michigan: Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.
The fountain’s base is 280 feet in diameter and holds 1.5 million gallons of water, which is recirculated from the base, and not drawn from the outside (yay conservation!). An amazing 134 jets and 820 lights produce Buckingham Fountain’s incredible water shows, and the largest of its three pumps uses 250 horsepower to pump 7,000 gallons of water a minute. Pretty impressive.
Every hour for 20 minutes there’s a major water display when the center jet shoots 150 feet in the air (and is a welcome mist during a hot summer day). After dusk the hourly spray is accompanied by a choreographed light and music show — a beautiful sight with the lit city skyline as a backdrop.
Located at Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway in Grant Park, the fountain is just steps from Chicago’s Loop. It runs from 8:00am to 11:00pm daily April to mid-October, depending on weather. But if you plan to stop by, be sure to get there before 10:00pm, when the last big lights and music show starts.