ELYRIA — Colored lights are the first feature residents agree is a must-have in any new fountain to come to Ely Square.
Just last week, Mayor Holly Brinda said she wants to replace the old fountain in the city’s downtown as a legacy gift to the city in time for its bicentennial celebration in 2017. A capital campaign to raise funds to construct and install a new fountain will soon be underway, but first Elyria residents must decide what it wants to work toward.
The fountain at Ely Square on Tuesday evening, Aug. 2.
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On Tuesday, the first set of public meetings to discuss ideas about the future fountain’s look was held, and the thoughts of what should be were plentiful with two camps emerging: the traditionalists who want the fountain to play upon the city’s nearly 200-year history and modernists who want the new fountain to be a focal point families can enjoy for years to come.
The desire for a light feature seems to be the only constant at this early stage.
“That’s good. We are getting somewhere,” Brinda said after the afternoon public meeting. “We will launch a campaign after we have a design, and this is all a lot of good input toward that final design.”
A fountain in Ely Square has been a constant for so many years that it’s hard to pinpoint just how many fountains the city has had. The earliest documented fountain was 1851. Since then, there have been major replacements or renovations in the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s. Each time the design and style has changed, but the one thing that has stayed the same is the fountain’s drawing power to get families to Ely Square.
“I remember as a child seeing the colored lights on the fountain,” said Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett. “I have grandchildren now that I take up to Lorain to see the colored lights, and I have even driven them as far as Sandusky for a colored light fountain. I want to see something traditional but with the modern touch of a light element.”
Brinda has put early estimates for replacing the fountain at between $400,000 and $750,000. The tentative timetable calls for it to be constructed by July and dedicated a month later.
Bennett said a fountain that puts on a light show could bring families downtown.
Bill Bird, executive director of the Lorain County Historical Society who is serving as honorary co-chairman of the Bicentennial Celebration Committee along with Fred Pond, president of Ridge Tool Co., said the park is on the National Registry of Historic Places and as such he would like to see a more historic fountain in the square.
“If it’s too modernistic, it won’t fit with the other elements of the square,” he said.
Meeting attendees tossed out ideas for a dual-purpose fountain area that can be also used as a plaza and with possible steps to allow for small concert-style seating.
Bob DuPont, a longtime Elyria resident, said he loves the image of the fountain being the center of attention each spring when Elyria High School and Elyria Catholic High School students head to prom and want to take pre-prom photos with friends.
“If you change it a lot, it is going to lose a lot of its identity,” DuPont said. “What we have now is beautiful.”