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Remarkable Restoration of the Historic Milledge Fountain

By Michelle Blackmonr

The historic Milledge Fountain – a centerpiece of Atlanta’s Grant Park – has been restored to its original glory. The Grant Park Conservancy celebrated the restoration of the fountain on November 1 at 6:00pm with a ribbon cutting and ceremony that marked the return of flowing water to the 1927 fountain.

The Milledge fountain was built in 1927 but hasn’t run properly since the 1950s. It is located at the Milledge Avenue entrance to Atlanta’s most historic park. The fountain had fallen into disrepair and needed some serious love and attention. The mouthpiece of the fountain corroded, tiles were broken and missing, and old pipes and plumbing prevented water from flowing.

The original fish sculpture at the center of the fountain had deteriorated until it was unrecognizable. Using decades old photographs artist Christine Mann reproduced the fish and accompanying bowl, allowing new versions of these lost components to be accurately recreated. The same approach was taken by fountain specialist, Nick Walloch to restore the surrounding tile mosaic – as much original material as possible was restored and missing elements were carefully selected to match the original pieces. Amazingly, the artists and craftsmen involved in the project live or work close to Grant Park, home of the fountain.

In late 2014, the Grant Park Conservancy made restoration of the fountain a top priority. Starting with a small fund of money that had been raised many years ago and held until the project could be undertaken, GPC began fundraising for a $200,000 effort to restore the fountain and create a welcome plaza to celebrate this popular community gathering area.

Thanks to tremendous community support, a significant Park Pride Legacy grant, a generous grant from the Waterfall Foundation, two grants from Georgia Power, important gifts from both the Grant Park Neighborhood Association and the Grant Park Parents Network, as well as in-kind contributions from DimensionWorks and Phoenix Landscaping, the fundraising goals were met and the project undertaken.

The fountain restoration is the second of a three-phase project called the Milledge Triangle Initiative. The first phase was the welcome plaza, completed in 2016. The plaza work involved replacing worn-out asphalt with cobblestone pavers, and placing a “People’s Playground” medallion at the entrance. In addition, upgraded picnic areas have been added, increasing even more this sites popularity as a destination in the park. It is also the location of the highly popular Grant Park Farmer’s Market.

The second phase was the restoration of the fountain itself. While the project depended heavily on financial gifts, it could not have been completed without community members donating their expertise and hands-on talents.

“That was the other cool thing I encountered, the mold maker Bill was down the road, the fountain keeper (restorer) Nick lives in Grant Park,” said restoration artist Christine Mann. “That’s why I love this place — the mason lives here, the plumber, the teacher, the restaurant owner. With their support, the fountain has come back to life!”