Express reader shares history of city fountain

Kim Brooks
Babbling Brooks Column
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     In last week’s Express, I wrote an article about the fundraising efforts to fix the City of Monticello’s fountain in Fountain Park by the Aquatic Center. Those who receive the Shopper’s Guide also got a fundraising letter in hopes of securing public and private donations for the two-phase project.

     With the article in the Express, we found a photo from 1974 of then-contractors building the existing fountain. Many of those businesses are still in existence today.

     Following the article, I received an e-mail from a loyal Express reader, Jack Maire in Illinois (formerly of Monticello). Jack shared some history I wasn’t aware of regarding the city’s “original” fountain built just inside the former fair office gate.

     “As a very young kid, I recall watching it being built,” said Maire.

     Using the searchable Express archives on the Monticello library’s website, Marie then emailed me the link to the front page of the June 18, 1953 Express. The main front-page article talks about work beginning on the 60-foot fountain at the City Park (fairgrounds).

     With the City of Monticello looking to raise $52,000 for phase one of the current fountain project, this fountain project in the mid-1950s was going to cost more than $1,000.

     The first paragraph reads: “Monticello’s city park will be decked out in a finery putting it far ahead of any other for the title of the Midwest’s most beautiful fairgrounds…

     “The fountain will be the most modern and decorative money can buy in fountains of this size.”

     Maire said he recalled a guy by the name of “Pusky” Wilcox being in charge of the project. The Express article references Monticello plumber Robert Wilcox, who also served on the fair board.

     Today, there is no sign of this fountain ever in existence at the fairgrounds near the old fair office.

     From the article’s description, it sounds as though the fountain at the city park resembles the fountain in existence today at the Aquatic Center. The fountain itself was located in the center of the basin, which served as a protective wall of concrete and Stone City stone. The outside was finished in brick, to match the “administration building” (fair office).

     The fountain was also decorated in lights, similar to that of the current structure. These lights, though, continually changed in color.

     The fountain could spray 60 feet in the air, and adjusted for windy days.

     With construction in mid-June, the fountain was up and running a month later.

     A year later, the fountain was found to be hard to maintain, so a new one was built in the same spot and running by early August 1954.

     Then, in 1955, work began on the first fountain located on city property at the “Y.” It was rebuilt in the mid-1970s. And now it will undergo renovations again in 2019.

     While I couldn’t find any photos in our archives of the “original” city fountain from the early 1950s, I did find a photo of the one that was quickly rebuilt in 1954. The photo was in the Aug. 9, 1954 Express.

     I also found a photo of young boys cooling down in the original fountain before it was in working order. The boys were identified as Jimmy, Donny and Jackie Leunsman and Larry Howie.

     I want to thank Jack Maire for bringing this interesting piece of Monticello history to my attention. To research more about the city fountain history, visit our archives at This is a joint project to provide the Express archives to the public between the Monticello Express and the Monticello Public Library.



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