Friendship Fountain

Friendship Fountain

Friendship Fountain on the Southbank Riverwalk is one of Jacksonville, Florida’s most recognizable and popular attractions for locals as well as tourists. It is located in St. Johns River Park (aka Friendship Park), just west of Main Street.Many residents have an emotional attachment to the fountain; dozens of marriage proposals were offered there [ [ Florida Times-Union: May 6, 2006-Fountain feedback] ] and it is a meeting point for people and organizations hosting downtown events. [ [ Florida Times-Union: Mar 28, 2001-Fountain goes dry for repairs] ] German manufacturer Hansgrohe, a producer of high-end plumbing fixtures, featured Friendship Fountain (and architect Taylor Hardwick) in a series of print advertisements to focus worldwide attention on the need to preserve and maintain this work of art. [ [ website celebrating Taylor Hardwick's architecture] ]


The fountain and Friendship Park was designed by Taylor Hardwick, the Jacksonville architect who also designed the Haydon Burns Library. Begun in 1963 and opened in March 1965, the fountain was billed as the “World’s Tallest and Largest” and became a popular tourist attraction. [ [ City of Jacksonville website: Department of Recreation & Community Service-Friendship Fountain] ]

The entire 14 acre park and fountain were built for $1.75 million on land that was donated by a group of Southside businessmen. At the time, the steams of water could be seen from virtually any location downtown and nearby Southside. [ [ website celebrating Taylor Hardwick's architecture] ]

The three pumps had a combined 750 horsepower and could push 17,000 gallons per minute; some streams as tall as a 10-story building. The enclosure for the pumps and controls was so large that the architect, incorporated it as a feature, rather than a visual distraction.

The Fountain was originally called the “Fountain of Friendship in Dallas Thomas Park”; "friendship" at the suggestion of a Rotary Club member and "Dallas Thomas" after the city's parks and finance commissioner. However, when Thomas was later involved in a scandal and indicted, the park was renamed in 1968. [ [ Friends of the Friendship Fountain website: History] ]

Friendship Park was reduced to less than half its original size when a city-owned restaurant and parking lot were built. Essentially, all the design structures in the park were removed--with the exception of the fountain itself--for what became a boondoggle. Harbormasters Restaurant was supposed to bring large crowds to the southbank riverwalk, but the venture failed, leaving the city $3 million in debt. The River City Brewing Company, which replaced Harbormasters in November of 1993, has been successful, but because the City owns the land, they pay no property taxes.

Friendship Fountain functioned for over 20 years and was refurbished in December of 1985, before resuming operation for another 15 years. Finally, wear and corrosion forced its closure at the end of the century. A five month, $1.3 million rehabilitation began when the fountain was drained in March, 2001. A new feature was added: six light towers with computer-controlled color-changing floodlights. Unanticipated damage to stainless steel pipes was uncovered, requiring a $97,000 increase in cost and two month delay, but the fountain re-opened in October 2001. [ [ Florida Times-Union: Aug 30, 2001- Friendship Fountain high 'n' dry Landmark to spout in early October] ] It operated for seven months until a power outage/voltage spike damaged the computer controller and blew out 40 lights & lenses on April 29, 2002. That was repaired, and the fountain was fully functional for nearly 3 years. It was a major attraction at Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005, but two months later, 2 of the 3 original (40-year old) pumps failed and parts were no longer available. The replacement cost for the pumps was estimated at $400,000, but the city budget was tight and money was not available. The fountain has been running on one pump since then with a greatly reduced flow. [ [ Florida Times-Union: Jun 15, 2005- Friendship Fountain's water jets falter due to bad pumps] ]


*The fountain’s basin is 200 feet in diameter holding 500,000 gallons of water which is treated according to swimming pool sanitation standards.
*The spray component consists of 3 rings.
*The outer ring contains 36 nozzles, equally spaced around the perimeter, projecting a stream of water inward at a 45° angle, rising 35 feet, driven by a 250 horsepower motor with a pump capacity of 6,750 GPM
*The middle ring is 120 feet in diameter and consists of 18 nozzles directed vertically, rising to a height of 40 feet, driven by a 150 horsepower motor with a pump capacity of 4,500 GPM.
*The center ring is 15 feet in diameter and contains 9 nozzles operating vertically, rising to a height of 120 feet, driven by a 350 horsepower motor with a pump capacity of 5,500 GPM.
* The fountain has a anemometer that controls the height of the center nozzles. If the force of the wind is from 5 to 15 miles an hour, the height of the center nozzles will not exceed 70 feet. For wind speed in excess of 15 miles an hour, the height of the center nozzles is limited to 50 feet. This was done to control the blow-off of water into the park and onto persons around the fountain.
*Each nozzle has a cluster of 4 lights: dark red, light red, turquoise and amber. [ [ Metro Jacksonville website: Sep 11, 2006-Friendship Fountain: The Truth Beneath the Lies] ]

Future plans

The future of the Jacksonville landmark may be in doubt. A number of proposals have been made, including moving Kids Kampus from Metropolitan Park and eliminating the fountain, rebuilding a smaller fountain or renovating the existing fountain. As of May 2008, there was $15 million in the city's capital projects budget to improve the Southbank Riverwalk, which includes the area around Friendship Fountain; but Mayor Peyton said that is not enough. [ [ Florida Times-Union: May 30, 2008-Let's upgrade riverwalk in time for 25th anniversary by Littlepage, Ron] ]


External links

* [ Friendship Fountain official website]
* [ Friends of Friendship Fountain website]

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