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North Point Fountain in North Point Water Tower Park

photo of North Point Fountain with tower in the backgroundThe North Point Fountain is located west of North Terrace Avenue and north of East Wyoming Place in the North Point South neighborhood of Milwaukee. The fountain and the surrounding park are owned and maintained by the Milwaukee Water Works.

Origins

In 1968, Michael F. Cudahy donated to the Milwaukee Water Works a fountain and landscaping to be located at Water Tower Park. The original construction included flowers, shrubs, and hedges surrounding the fountain. Additionally, four cement walks passed through the park with gas lamps lining the approach to the fountain. Bench seating encircled the fountain to observe the fountain’s two concentric rings of illuminated water-spraying nozzles.

Neighborhood Historic Designation

The North Point Water Tower and the surrounding neighborhood received multiple historical designations during the 1960s - early 1980s. Both the tower and neighborhood have been denoted in the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, the tower has been marked as a Historic Milwaukee Structure and the surrounding neighborhood has been named as a Historic Milwaukee District.  

In addition to these historical designations, the North Point South Historical District study references the Water Tower Park’s relevance to the surrounding neighborhood, while the Water Tower study references the landscaping that surrounds the water tower. Both studies comment on the fountain, but neither study mentions the fountain’s appearance, nor do they make recommendations regarding methods of rehabilitation. The fountain is not a historically designated structure, but is within the historic district.

The district is also locally designated with the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission. Further, the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood organization serves the historical preservation needs of the North Point South Historic District.

Maintenance and Repair

The fountain has received regular maintenance and repairs since the end of construction in 1968. In 1984, the fountain underwent renovations that primarily focused on installing a footing around the fountain’s circular concrete slab and installing concrete in the place of existing brickwork. Additionally, in 2007, the concrete slabs surrounding the fountain were leveled. Further, in 2015, $22,000 was spent to repair and replace various sections of the fountain’s supply piping.

Currently, the fountain’s structure and mechanics require another significant repair. Cracks in the fountain’s concrete have created gaps. In addition to gaps, the fountain’s concrete slabs move independently of each other. Maintenance is needed to address leaks from the underlying supply and drain piping that have caused the fountain’s northwest section to settle. The Milwaukee Water Works maintenance staff estimates the needed repairs to the fountain will cost approximately $90,000. The itemized maintenance needs are as follows:

•    Replacing the drain line beneath foundation, including concrete patching and paint
•    Leveling of the fountain
•    Upgrading electrical components
•    Replacing the water pump

The Milwaukee Water Works spent $10,000 on repair to the electrical and drain line in the summer of 2018. This repair was intended to put the fountain back in service while a broader discussion could be held regarding preferences for the future of the fountain.

The fountain has a history of structural problems. Unfortunately, they have persisted and the structure now has multiple large cracks and gaps between slabs. Water passing through these voids is causing further damage through erosion and freeze-thaw cycles. Also, water coming from leaking pipes has caused settling and cracking. Once these cracks and gaps appear it is very difficult to seal them up on a long-term basis. Evidence of this can be seen in the photos of past repairs. Any repairs to the cracks and gaps will be temporary and require constant monitoring to ensure they are sound.