Fountain Blew

Rebecca Weber in fountain
She was just plain Rebecca Weber, WC ‘11, prior to her fountain dunking. Then she became Rebecca Weber Gordon.

In recent years, Brenau Women’s College students partook of the old tradition of celebrating impending nuptials of one of their classmates by tossing the young woman into the front lawn fountain on the historical Gainesville campus. Lately, however, they have had to look first, otherwise they could have treated the bride-to-be to a rather bumpy landing. The thing simply could not hold its water. Band-Aid approaches to the problems – the only type available – quickly blew out.

That’s changing. Thanks to a lead donor, to be revealed later, the university has raised enough money to begin in January 2013 a project to replace the old fountain with a new one. Although that donation does not cover the total cost of the project, university facilities experts say the old fountain must come down now if the new one is to be finished in time for dedication at the spring commencement ceremonies.

Q&A: Why Do We Need a New Fountain?

There’s tradition and there’s tradition that just doesn’t work anymore. Mike Hollimon, director of facilities and logistics, deals daily with the joys and travails of managing all the parts of Brenau’s historic Gainesville campus.  That’s a challenging assignment with things that are more than 100 years old, especially with the parts that have become a bit long in the tooth. Hollimon answers some question about why the university is tearing down the old fountain that graced the front lawn since ….

Why are you destroying something that has been around since the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes?

First of all, we’re not sure how long it has been around, or for that matter, how many locations it has been in for however long it has been around.  We’re not destroying anything. We’re replacing a fountain that does not work, has not worked in some time and cannot be repaired. Any fountain-related traditions will be able to continue.

What’s wrong with keeping the old fountain?

The fountain is more than 100 years old and it has not had the mechanical systems updated since its creation. The waterline that circulates water between the filter, pump and fountain is broken below the pool and would require that we dig up the pool. The existing skimmer is makeshift and doesn’t work effectively. Moreover, the fountain has been repaired numerous times over the years. The maintenance required to keep it functioning, before the recent failure, is tremendous. The large holding pool has numerous cracks and leaks and the existing fountain required that water be added, manually, often. The drain does not work and when it rains heavily, we have to pump to extra water out of the pool to prevent it from overflowing. [University plumber] Scott Miller has installed some small filters, but the type of filters that we have been able to retrofit will not maintain the fountain cleanliness to an acceptable level.

So let’s get past the technobabble here. What’s wrong with the fountain?

It won’t hold water and what water it can hold is a dirty health hazard.

So why not do something with it that does not involve holding water?

The actual fountain has been dislodged from the base numerous times and has been damaged. The top of the fountain has a large piece missing. The flower pots are very old and the cracks make it difficult (by difficult, I mean impossible) to water the plantings without soil eroding into the fountain and dirtying the water.  I suppose you could fill the pool with dirt, but then it would not be a fountain anymore. It would be a vase.

What will you replace the old fountain with?

The renovation calls for an exact replica of the existing fountain, with the exception of the top-sitting area of the pool. While searching archives, we discovered that the fountain had a precast concrete seat around the top, unlike the brick top the fountain maintains today. The renovation includes re-installing the concrete sitting platform. The platform will hang over the pool, inside and outside by about an inch.  This will help reduce the amount of water that splashes on top of the sitting area. All the brick work that creates the existing pool will mimic the existing fountain. The actual fountain and surrounding flower pots will be used to cast a new fountain and pots. The new fountain and flower pots will be cast in a bronze composites and fiberglass. They pieces will then be painted to match the existing fountain.  We will hold on to the existing fountain and flower pots so they can be displayed somewhere for all future generations to appreciate.

So how will you guarantee the new fountain won’t leak?

To assist in maintaining the new fountain, modern technology will be employed. The new pool will be a concrete base with an integrated water repellent polymer. The renovated fountain will consist of a holding vault that will house modern pumping technology. A new display pump will provide even, constant pressure to the fountain, allowing for a more consistent stream of water flowing from the fountain. A new filtration pump will exchange the water and filter the water at a rate of 3,900 gallons per hour, helping maintain a clean holding pool. A newly installed sump pump will maintain the water level in the event of heavy rain fall and prevent the pool form overflowing. Float switches will be installed on all the pumps to prevent them from running in the event the water level drops unexpectedly. Finally, the fountain will incorporate a UV filter to assist in reducing algae build-up in the fountain and in the internal systems. All of these filters will provide a cleaner environment and reduce the color change in the water caused by the debris falling from adjacent trees into the holding pool.

When will this be operational?

The spring commencement exercises return to the front law this year on the weekend of May 3-4. Our goal is to have it installed and fully functional by then.

Meanwhile, alumni, students and friends still can contribute to finish paying for the project. Go to or call 770-534-5306.

4 Responses to “Fountain Blew”
  1. Erin Kennedy Tonge says:

    Some of these answers come across as rude and condescending. Simply stating that the old parts would be on display and an exact replica would replace it would have sufficed.

  2. David Morrison says:


    Thanks for your comment. Please do not bring heat on Mr. Hollimon for a little humorous banter. We probably should have put smiley face emoticons in, or something. In the interest of full disclosure, we asked him to do overkill on the explanation since others may want a more detail, and we edited his narrative into a Q&A format. So what you get in essence is the editor’s being disrespectful to himself.

  3. Looks like I am getting a 404 error on the donate page. 🙁

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