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Chicago's Buckingham Water Fountain

One of Chicago's most famous water fountains!

Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain is located in Chicago’s Grand Park at Columbus Drive (301 East) and Congress Parkway (500 South) and bordered by Lake Shore, Balbo, Columbus and Jackson Drives. One of the largest water fountains in the world, the impressive choreographed fountain was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2000. Dedicated on August 26, 1927, the fountain runs from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day from mid-April to mid-October, weather permitting. During a twenty-minute water display that runs every hour on the hour, 14,000 gallons of water per minute are pushed through the water fountain’s 133 jets, with the center jet shooting a stream of water 150 feet into the air. At dusk, a light and music show coincides with the fountain’s water display. The last show of the night begins at 10 p.m.

Buckingham Fountain is modeled after the Latona Water Fountain at Versailles. It is constructed of Georgia pink marble, and boasts a capacity of 1.5 million gallons of water. Water recirculates from the base after the fountain’s basins are filled; water is drawn from outside sources only to replace losses from wind and evaporation.

Three basins rise above Buckingham Fountain’s massive lower pool, which spans 280 feet in diameter. The lower basin is 103 feet in diameter, the middle basin 60 feet in diameter, and the upper basin 24 feet in diameter. The lip of the upper basin stands 25 feet above the water line of the fountain’s lowest basin. The underground pump room is 35 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 25 feet high.

The water fountain was donated to the city of Chicago by philanthropist Kate Buckingham in memory of her brother, Clarence Buckingham, and is maintained via the Buckingham Fountain Endowment Fund. Her vision of the fountain was to create “soft moonlight”. The fountain currently has 820 lights arranged in seven different configurations. Distinguished not only for its exquisite decorative details and bronze sculptures, the fountain is also hailed for the innovative use of the technology that creates a massive, dynamic light and water display. The four bronze sea-horse statues in the fountain, designed by sculptor Marcel Francois Loyau, represent the four states surrounding Lake Michigan: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

The choreographed display was computerized in 1979, but for the fifty-two years prior to the automated adaptation the display was run by hand from the underground pump room, where the operator controlled the jets and streams with switches and dials while viewing his masterpiece from a small window below. The fountain’s design is the work of architect and planner Edward H. Bennet, who played a significant role in the creation of the 1909 Plan of Chicago, which included creation of lakefront amenities such as the Buckingham Fountain and the surrounding Grand Park, known as Chicago’s “Front Lawn”. Bennet’s other works include the Michigan Avenue Bridge, Wacker Drive, and city plans for Detroit, Portland, Brooklyn, and Ottawa.

Buckingham fountain has become one of the world’s most recognizable fountains, and has been featured in movies and television. The official starting point for “U.S.Route 66" is the Buckingham fountain, as well as “The Amazing Race 6". The fountain is featured in the opening credits of the Fox sitcom "Married... with Children." Due to the popularity of the show in Germany, the fountain is commonly known as "The Bundy Fountain," after the show’s protagonists, the Bundys.

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Chicago's Buckingham Water Fountain