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Groundbreaking scheduled for Virginia fountain restoration

A fundraising announcement is expected during a groundbreaking for the Olcott Park fountain restoration project in Virginia. Officials from the Virginia Community Foundation, the city of Virginia and the Olcott Park Fountain Fund committee are ex...

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The Olcott Park fountain and pool in August 2015. (file photo / News Tribune)

A fundraising announcement is expected during a groundbreaking for the Olcott Park fountain restoration project in Virginia.

Officials from the Virginia Community Foundation, the city of Virginia and the Olcott Park Fountain Fund committee are expected to break ground for the project at 1 p.m. Friday.

The total fundraising goal for the project is $400,000, but the reconstruction is broken into phases.

During the first phase of reconstruction, the fountain will be restored to its original form with various water sprays and color lighting; landscaping will be completed during the second phase.

The restoration plan calls for new landscaping that makes the fountain more visible and inviting. The fountain will get a new pump system, and the fountain's pool will get a new floor, while the stonework outside the pool will be regrouted. The retaining walls on the hillside going down into the fountain area will be reset. New sidewalks around the water with a shaded pergola at each end of the fountain are planned. The area will be made wheelchair-accessible, and new lighting and security cameras will be installed.

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The fountain's 1930s technology allowed it to produce more than 300 water formations and color combinations every hour, drawing so many people from the region when it opened that police had to provide traffic control. A stone walkway circled the fountain's pool and a viewing platform overlooked the water. To construct the fountain, 70 unemployed Virginia residents were given jobs as a project of the Great Depression-era Works Progress Administration. Two years of construction came to fruition when the fountain's water began to flow on Aug. 16, 1937.

The fountain is now a stone pile and hasn't operated since 2013. Replacement parts are no longer available. The pool leaks and sits empty, with the floor crumbling in places.

To learn more about the Olcott Park fountain project or to donate, contact Greg Gilness at (218) 741-2951 or go to the Virginia Community Foundation website, virginiafoundation.com .

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