Even fish are enjoying Pittsburgh’s new North Side fountain
The sparkling new fountain in Allegheny Commons Park is already becoming a popular photo destination.
Professional dog walker Wes Oliver this week couldn’t resist posing Winne, the pooch he was walking, with the fountain in the background.
“The (dog) owner is a doctor here in the hospital,” he said, pointing to Allegheny General Hospital across the street. “I was just trying to get a shot of the dog with the hospital and the fountain in the background. We enjoy the fountain very much.”
In a city of rivers, the fountain is a rising star.
The North Side fountain, which began spouting water April 3, is drawing plenty of attention from park visitors. Even fish are enjoying it. Park managers found a carp swimming around the basin shortly after they turned the water on.
“Our park ranger promptly removed it,” said Erin Tobin, community engagement manager for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
They also found three catfish in the park’s Lake Elizabeth during last weekend’s draining and clean-out of the lake. The fish were tossed in the Ohio River, Tobin said.
The conservancy collaborated with civic groups Allegheny Commons Initiative and Northside Leadership Conference to raise $1.7 million in charitable donations for restoration of the fountain in the park’s northeast corner, including $1.1 million for construction and a $600,000 maintenance endowment.
“I’m very happy at this stage,” said Patricia Rooney, a park volunteer and supporter and wife of the late Dan Rooney, former Steelers chairman and U.S. ambassador to Ireland. “I hope to see people enjoying this area and respecting the area.”
Allegheny Commons was built in 1867 in what was then Allegheny City, which was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907. It once featured four fountains. Northsiders believe the one built at the corner of North and Cedar Avenues was first constructed in 1869. Pittsburgh tore it out during budget constraints of the 1960s and buried most of it underneath a flower bed that was installed as a replacement.
Workers discovered pieces of the original during excavation of the grounds, and they were returned to the city. Tobin said the pieces served as a template for design of the new fountain.
Tom Barbush of Allegheny West, founder of the Allegheny Commons Initiative, said the group has been working for more than 20 years on park restoration. Previous work included new paved walking paths, lighting, landscaping and other infrastructure in the southeast and northeast corners.
The new fountain is a replica of the original and includes a 50-foot circular basin with a stone rim, a large Grecian vase in the center and a central water jet surrounded by smaller jets. Beds for flowers and ornamental shrubs surround the fountain.
It includes an anemometer, which measures wind velocity and is linked to a computer that regulates water pressure. The system will lower the height of fountain spray on windy days so visitors can walk by without getting wet, said Ellis Schmidlapp, the project architect.
“It is always sensing the direction and the speed of the wind,” he said. “You don’t want it blowing high when the wind is high.”
The conservancy is working through a list with Frank Zottola Construction, the general contractor, to fix several fountain glitches, including flow problems.
“This isn’t a finished project yet,” Tobin said. Officials will dedicate the fountain during a May 2 ceremony.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .