Archive for Friday, July 25, 2008

No fountain of youth … but better

July 25, 2008

At the heart of downtown Baldwin City now stands a monument of sorts to why the city came about - Baker University.

There's a fountain at the intersection of Eighth and High streets that was given to Baker to mark its 150th anniversary this year. A group of citizens, headed by Rita Madl, raised the $20,000-plus to build the fountain.

"Larry Parkins asked me what we could do for the 150th," said Madl. "He's the devil out there. The Hills, the Harmons, our regular chamber (of commerce) gang got together to determine what would be memorable.

"We were honoring the university in downtown to represent the great relationship we have between the university and community," she said. "Longtime families were able to contribute."

It may look like it's a part of the Downtown Streetscape Project just completed, but it wasn't in the early plans of the $1.8 million makeover. But, it may be one of the most popular items of the facelift.

"I think the fountain was a neat idea and it definitely adds something to the downtown," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "We were lucky in that we could coordinate it with the downtown construction, so even though it was added to the plan well after we started, it looks as if it belongs there."

The fountain means even more to Dingman, who is a Baker graduate.

"I think it is something significant and unique that the community could do for Baker's sesquicentennial and I know the committee worked very hard to make it happen," he said.

Council Member Tony Brown, who has been a longtime professor at Baker, agreed.

"To me, the fountain is a tangible example of the strong relationship between the people of Baldwin City and Baker University," said Brown. "When the idea of a gift to the university came up, I never imagined the scale of the project the committee envisioned.

"And, look how community members responded," he said. "The fountain is not only a tribute to the historic importance of Baker University, but also a tribute to the generous spirit of the Baldwin City community."

There was a dedication ceremony at the fountain in September that drew a large crowd for a birthday cake and ice cream. Baker President Pat Long lauded those in attendance and thanked the community for its generous gift.

Baker Spokesman Steve Rottinghaus echoed those sentiments when talking about what the gift has meant.

"Baker University is grateful that Baldwin City recognized the university's sesquicentennial year with a gift everyone can enjoy," said Rottinghaus. "Baker values its longstanding partnership with the community.

"The fountain with the pillars listing the generous donors truly enhances the downtown streetscape," he said.

Everyone is still getting used to the fountain, which is only on for about 12 hours during the day and is lit at night. People are also starting to chip in with an old fountain tradition by tossing loose change into it while making a wish.

"From the city's standpoint, it is a unique feature that will require some regular maintenance, but it sure adds to the softer feel we tried to create downtown with the improvement project," said Dingman.

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