A portion of Harrison Plaza Fountain collapsed Dec. 18, 2019. Facilities reports a new and improved fountain could return to campus as early as July.
“The president has made it clear,” said Assistant Vice President for facilities, Michael Gautney, “that the fountain is coming back.”
Architects constructed the original fountain out of Italian limestone. While this material made sculpting easy, its softness ultimately caused deterioration that lead to its eventual break.
“[The fountain] did have some deterioration due to age and weathering,” Gautney said. “We’re still waiting on [insurance] to give a final determination of what caused it.”
Last week, the university sent out a request for proposal (RFP) from companies to provide pricing and designs for the replacement of the fountain. They should receive these RFPs back by Feb. 20.
“Then, we’ll start looking at who we will use to hire to rebuild and reconstruct a new fountain,” Gautney said. “We’re not going to replace parts and pieces; we’re going to replace all of it.”
A few different factors push around the July end date. Will the fountain be carved domestically, or internationally? Where will products be sourced? Depending on the company chosen, this date could stretch to Sept. or Oct.
“The architect that was over the project is working with us to pull out the designs that were used the first time it was constructed,” Gautney said. “[We’ll] give those to the vendors so they can give us the pricing on it to rebuild it as it was.”
Although the pools and the fountain’s base, known by students as “the nub,” remain in Harrison Plaza, they will eventually yield to all new products. President Kitts wants a design as close to the original fountain as possible.
Currently, the fountain maintains an insurance value of $530,000, but insurance is still investigating the costs of damages.
Donald and Laura Harrison, contributing benefactors who’s name the plaza bares, donated the original fountain to the university. Construction began outside Florence, Italy, then designers exported the piece to Florence, AL.
From July of 2002 to March of 2003, maintenance installed the fountain on campus. It became a centerpiece for UNA, and an iconic image of the university. Even SGA President Sam Mashburn remembers seeing the fountain on campus as a child.
“[The collapse] was pretty shocking and really heartbreaking,” Mashburn said. “It’s a centerpiece of our campus. It’s something that everyone that’s a part of UNA identifies with and is immediately recognizable.”
Without the fountain shinning, current students wondered what to say to prospective students about the beauty of campus.
“Tell prospective students how the UNA family really rallied around this,” Mashburn said. “I think it’s a great testament to the love that this whole university has for our traditions, for our campus, and it shows that automatically as soon as it happened there was an outpouring of support... People wanted a piece of the fountain when it broke, people wanted to know immediately what was going to happen to our campus traditions.”
Two campus traditions celebrate the fountain: The Lucky Dip and Light the Fountain.
The Lucky Dip began in 2014. In previous years, SOAR counselors warned incoming freshman that unless they dipped their pencils in the fountain for good luck, they would earn bad grades their first semester. The Student Government Association ran with the idea to better connect students to UNA and establish a first day of school tradition.
“With the Lucky Dip, we won’t see it impact the event,” Mashburn said. “Likely [the fountain] will be done as early as July so I don’t foresee it impacting the Lucky Dip.”
Light the Fountain, on the other hand, occurs in March. The event started in 2016 to celebrate spring and turning the fountain back on.
Fountain benefactors, Donald and Laura Harrison, attended the event its inaugural year.
“[Donald and I] are so pleased that you students use this place as a focal point for many campus and community activities,” said Laura Harrison during her speech at the first Light the Fountain. “Now, at the beginning of this spring season, we hope the lights of this fountain will be a beacon to you students, offering a guiding light to your educational goals.”
This would be the first Light the Fountain since Mrs. Harrison’s death on Sept. 27, 2018 in Cincinnati. She graduated from Florence State Teacher’s College in 1955, served as a member of the foundation board of directors from 1995 to 2010, and in 2005 she won Alumni of the Year.
“When the Light the Fountain Committee releases the next steps to that event, it’s important that students really show up and show out at that event,” Mashburn said. “[We should] support what we have on campus and what we’re doing with that event.”
Students should hear updates from the Light the Fountain Committee within days.
“I think this is really a great story that will be remembered at UNA as a time where we all came together, and rallied around what’s important to us,” Mashburn said. “We’ll see the fruits of that later.”