Cedar Rapids, Iowa
A Troubled Fountain & a Major Update!

Photo courtesy of Alexander D. Woods, Ph.D., RPA

Thanks to the above photo attached to an email form Alexander D. Woods, we now know that the fountain in Cedar Rapids, Iowa not only survived the wrangling chronicled below, but it still exists. It may be a little worse for the wear of time, but it can still be found in a new location in Bever Park in Cedar Rapids. Dr. Woods informs us that his mother-in-law recalls it in this location as far back as the 1950s. We will now begin a mission to find out how and when the controversy over its original location was resolved and how the fountain ended up in Bever Park. We'll update the rest of the earlier story below when we find that information, but for now, we want to thank Dr. Woods for this major step forward with the history of the Cedar rapids Fountain.

Earlier story - now updated with information provided by Tara Templeman, Curator and Collection Manager at the Linn County Historical Center:

The Fountain in Cedar Rapids, Iowa had a bit of a tumultuous life span - for some of the same reasons that other National Humane Alliance Fountains encountered problems. There were nine fountains designated to cities in Iowa as at one time or another, but Cedar Rapid seems to be the only one to receive one and then face potential legal issues over its location.

Lewis Seaver of the Alliance visited the city in May, 1909 to determine if the city would receive a fountain as he noted that, "...Iowa already had more than her proportion of them." After choosing an appropriate location, Seaver agreed to recommend that Cedar Rapids be given a fountain of its own, but could not give another as was being requested. The fountain was given in 1909 and erected in the middle of the street between First Street and Second Avenue.

However, this did not turn out to be a happy story as a lot of dissatisfaction emerged for a couple of reasons. As happened in many other communities, the location of the fountain became an issue. Instead of being viewed as a community asset, some called it nothing more than a nuisance with a serious plumbing issue. The water was constantly overflowing the bowls creating mud in warm weather and ice in cold weather. In addition, people pointed to traffic congestion issues that they believed were about to get a lot worse because of new bridge and street work in the area. This prompted Seaver to say that he would visit cedar Rapids again in 1910, but he was sure that other cities could take the fountain if Cedar Rapids did now want it.

Not everyone agreed with the possible removal. The local newspaper opposed it and said, "To permit the fountain to be taken from Cedar rapids would be an act of retrogression. The council should refuse to stand for anything but progress."

At that point, Seaver went back to Cedar Rapids to discuss the issue. The city council wanted the fountain to be moved because of traffic and the water issues. Seaver pointed out to city officials that the problems with the fountain's plumbing were the result of bad work by the city. Evidently pipes that would have prevented any overflow were never installed! He again countered that if they wanted it moved, the National Humane Alliance would take it back and give it to another town as there were more places requesting fountains than there were fountains to give. He said that soon there would be 116 fountains given out and there was a backlog of sixty-six more requests.

The next move was the city's and under the cover of darkness around Halloween the city moved the fountain to A Avenue and First Street. Some thought the fountain had been stolen, but the move was the work of city officials. In January 1911 the city sent a petition to the NHA informing them of the move and asking for approval of the new location noting that 360 teamsters had signed the petition acknowledging that the new location was fine with them. Though not part of the petition, several city councilmen objected to the idea that the city had broken the original agreement with the NHA by moving the fountain. They felt that once the NHA had given it to the city it became city property and if the NHA attempted to take it back, the city would get a restraining order to block the removal!

We're not quite sure what happened after that, but the fountain was still in Cedar Rapids at First Street and A Avenue in 1925 when a seemingly speeding automobile crashed into the fountain and damage it enough for the city to take the opportunity to move it to a new location in front of a nearby power house. City Commissioner S. C, Villes remarked, "We've been wanting to have that thing moved for a long time, and now we've had it moved for us."

How much later the fountain was moved to Bever Park, we don't know. However, the good news remains that the fountain still exists and a closer look reveals that it might even be restored to its original glory some day.

(photo/Cindy Hadish)

Click here to see some of the news coverage of Cedar Rapids story.

Posted November 7, 2019 - Updated May 12. 2021

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