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Project set to begin to keep Cal Anderson’s ‘fountain mountain’ from crumbling

(Image: CHS)

Scaffolding will cover Cal Anderson Park’s “fountain mountain” this spring and, possibly, into summer for much needed repair work to keep the structure from crumbling and get the water flowing properly again, Seattle Parks announced Thursday.

The scaffolding will be installed this month around the iconic water feature to provide access for repairs:

The granite stones which make up the surface of the cone fountain will be partially removed to allow for the underlying support structure to be repaired, and then the stone surface replaced. In addition, the pump system will be assessed and made operational. Subsequent vault cleaning and testing of the flow system will commence following completion of the work.

Like many elements in need of repairs and upgrades around Cal Anderson, problems with the Waterworks fountain mountain date back well before CHOP and a year of protest in the park.

CHS reported on one lengthy dry period for the water feature in 2011 as repairs were held up on a wait for special German-made pump parts for the Doug Hollis-designed fountain.

This time around, the problems are larger. Not only is the pump system a problem but the fountain’s granite blocks on the cone are “exhibiting substantial overall lateral and vertical fracturing within the mortar beds.”

A parks department representative said it’s not yet clear what is causing the degradation. “We will be applying improved helical anchor ties throughout and replacing all the mortar with higher grade mortar, with increments informed by our engineering consultant,” the rep said, adding that water repellent and anti-graffiti coatings will also be applied.

“These improvements are designed to support the weight of the cladding and prevent future erosion/fracturing and water migration that can damage the substrate,” the representative writes. “We hope to have more information about the source of this degradation following investigatory inspections provided the engineering firm.”

The parks department rep didn’t mention any impact climbing on the fountain mountain may have.

The fountain work comes as combined parks department and community efforts continue to repair Cal Anderson and add new features and resources after a challenging 2020 for the public space that included “social distancing circles,” protests, encampments, and police sweeps. Cal Anderson Park Alliance community discussions that began in the wake of CHOP continued with groups and advocates working to take on new projects around the park. But there are still no official plans for increased services and outreach, or resources like phone charging stations, rain shelters for mutual aid providers that some have advocated for.

The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture has contracted with JMS Masonry for the job. The parks announcement says the fountain work will begin later this month when the “contractor for the fountain project will mobilize in the park” and begin work on the cone-shaped fountain and flume. While parks hopes the work will be completed “as soon as possible,” it could extend into summer, according to the announcement.


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