Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, October 4, 2000
'Invisible' project restores Inner Quad's 75-year-old drinking fountains


At each corner of the shady recesses of the Inner Quad, passersby will find a flamboyant 75-year-old drinking fountain ready to serve a shot of cool water.

Not in service for many years, the fountains have been restored to their former glory by a Facilities Operations crew.

photo: L.A. Cicero

"We have always had it on our list of things to do," says Assistant Campus Architect Ruth Todd. "It was a very successful little project that I think was invisible to everyone."

Located in front of buildings 20, 30, 80 and 90, the fountains, shrouded behind ivy-covered columns, are not obvious until one comes upon them. Then, with their deep jewel-toned tiles on the basins, bases and backdrops, the ornate fountains command attention.

Donated by the classes of 1924, 1925, 1926 and 1927, the drinking fountains represent a basic style that features tilework depicting varying versions of genie lamps, lush grape clusters, curvy leaves and twisty branches.

The design takes one back to the days of velvet-draped theaters and elegant movie houses. But until the fountains were restored, they had not been lookers for a while. Parts had been replaced and removed. The fountains' beauty had faded, their coloring lacked luster.

Along the way, chrome-plated fittings had been installed as substitutes to the original brass faucets.

"The idea was to get them back in service," says Dean Macari, a facilities engineer with Facilities Operations, who supervised the restoration effort. "The workers did a very good job of removing the tile so they could get to the plumbing -- then they had to put the tile back."

They also cleaned up and applied finish to the cast-stone bowls and located brass faucets from a local merchant.

"It involved a lot of attention to detail," Todd says.

One fountain that still needs a final touch is an elaborate eyecatcher at Memorial Court. While its showy tile was re-grouted, the drain opened and the faucet mechanism rebuilt, workers found that the closest water line is 75 feet away, underground in the grass. "One of these days the intent is to hook up that fountain so it's operational," Macari says.