Damaged historic fountain in the scholarship halls to be repaired by KU Facilities

By Rylie Oswald

The Alumni Place Fountain down the hill from Miller and Watkins scholarship halls. | Photo by Rylie Oswald

The Alumni Place Fountain used to be a place where the spray of water and music could fill the air. Under the night sky, scholarship hall residents could don lei around their necks and roll up their pants to dance in the ankle-deep water that gushed from the mouths of fish sculptures.

The historic fountain, east of Watkins and Miller scholarship halls, once created memories for scholarship hall residents. Now it is no longer operative.

KU Operations is preparing to repair it, said Mark Reiske, director of Facilities Planning and Development. Reiske said the difficulty in repairing it “is procuring appropriate materials.”

The fountain, once integrated into scholarship hall traditions, such as fountain parties and fountain dunkings, was broken sometime after spring 2019.

“We have a project for the fountain and are working on procuring the components to make the repair,” Reiske said.

According to a 2014 Historic Places Registration Form, the Alumni Place Fountain is listed as a historic monument in KU’s East Historic District.

KU Operations is “responsible for maintaining campus as a whole including landscape elements that contribute to a historic district,” Reiske said.

Miller residents – 1998-1999 academic year – at the annual Fountain Dance hosted by the All Scholarship Hall Council. | Photo gathered from a Miller photo album

Miller residents – 2001-2002 academic year – enjoying the Fountain Dance. | Photo gathered from a Miller photo album

Sellards Scholarship Hall residents – 1996-1997 academic year – preparing to dunk another resident in the fountain. | Photo gathered from a Sellards photo album

A Sellards resident is escaping from the fountain dunking. | Photo gathered from a Sellards photo album

The basin is detached from the fountain, and a metal rod within the structure is the only support that prevents it from toppling off the fountain.

The rod is the only support preventing the fountain’s basin from falling. | Photo by Rylie Oswald

Former Miller Scholarship Hall President Alyssa Salas said she brought the fountain’s state to the attention of Complex Director Ben Grapperhaus and KU Housing Director Sarah Waters. This meeting took place at the beginning of fall 2021 and involved both Watkins and Miller.

“They told us that they would look into it and turn it on for us, which obviously didn’t happen,” Salas said.

The fountain holds sentimental value to Salas, who used it for a project that required taking photos of her favorite places on campus.

Salas said she is not the only person who has complained about the fountain’s lack of maintenance.

“It’s almost like since not all of campus will see it, then it’s not important,” Salas said.

Waters did not respond to the Open Kansan.

The fountain’s history

The New York Erkins Studios sold the fountain to KU in 1953 for $1,300 after Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy suggested the University purchase it, according to KU Places Directory.

The fountain has a history of being damaged and inoperative. In 1981, nearly thirty years after its placement, the fountain deteriorated, according to KU Places Directory. Erikins Studios replaced it with a replica.

In late 2016, vandals broke the fountain’s basin, according to a Lawrence Journal-World article. The damages were estimated to be at least $1,000. KU director for news and media relations Erinn Barcomb-Peterson told the Lawrence Journal-World the fountain would be repaired.

According to a Lawrence Journal-World article from late 2017, a Facilities Planning and Development employee reported falsely to KU police that the fountain had been vandalized again.

The fountain had not been vandalized again; it had never been repaired since 2016, even though Barcomb-Peterson told the Lawrence Journal-World it would be restored.

Barcomb-Peterson did not comment to the Open Kansan.

The University repaired the fountain before spring 2019, and scholarship hall residents, including Salas, enjoyed the fountain again.

“[The fountain] was used as a photo spot during spring just because it was so pretty,” Salas said.

A hall photo of Miller residents – 2018-2019 academic year. Alyssa Salas, sixth from the left. | Photo gathered from a Miller photo album

Salas graduated from KU in spring 2022 and said if the fountain had been fixed, she would have loved to take her graduation pictures with the Alumni Place Fountain instead of the Chi Omega Fountain.

“I have more connection with that scholarship hall fountain,” Salas said.

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