Summer is coming! Peterborough’s Centennial Fountain switched on for 2019 season

Now maintained by City of Peterborough, the fountain was planned and built in 1967 by local businessmen

The Centennial Fountain in Little Lake in downtown Peterborough was turned on for the 2019 season on Friday, May 17th. Now maintained by City of Peterborough, the fountain was planned and built in 1967 by local businessmen. (Photo: Bruce Head / kawarthaNOW.com)
The Centennial Fountain in Little Lake in downtown Peterborough was turned on for the 2019 season on Friday, May 17th. Now maintained by City of Peterborough, the fountain was planned and built in 1967 by local businessmen. (Photo: Bruce Head / kawarthaNOW.com)

Here’s a sure sign summer is coming: the City of Peterborough switched on the Centennial Fountain for the season at 11 a.m. this morning (May 17).

When it gets turned on every the spring, the stream of water continuously shooting up to 75 metres in the air is a reminder that summer is on the way.

The majestic fountain in Little Lake in downtown Peterborough is a familiar sight to city residents, but a lot of people may not know the history of the fountain.

VIDEO: Peterborough Centennial Fountain is turned on for 2019 season

As most could guess from the fountain’s name, it was installed during Canada’s centennial year — 1967.

A few years ago, the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce discovered an old 16-millimetre film in a cupboard in their offices. Called Land of the Shining Waters, the Chamber digitized the 20-minute black-and-white documentary and posted it on YouTube.

The film is not only fascinating for its historical look at the origins of the Centennial Fountain, but because it’s narrated by well-known local musician and broadcaster Del Crary — after whom the park on the shores of Little Lake was named.

VIDEO: “Land of the Shining Waters” documentary

Crary, who died in 1978 at the age of 59, was CHEX radio’s morning announcer in the 1950s and, for 25 years, he hosted “Dance Party”, a show for teenagers on CHEX television. Named Peterborough’s Citizen of the Year in 1961, Crary was also the prime mover for many of Peterborough’s charity campaigns during the time. He created and organized The Timmy Show, an annual fundraising telethon for the Easter Seals.

Along with his friend Fred Anderson, Crary was also responsible for creating The Arts and Water Festival (now Peterborough Musicfest) which held its first event from a flatbed truck at Point St. Charles Park (renamed Del Crary Park in 1979 in his honour).

With a jazzy soundtrack (including the classic “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck), the documentary begins with a general introduction to The Kawarthas, which Crary describes as “a 70-mile section of languid lakes, busy locks, and lively interconnecting rivers.” He explains that the word “Kawartha” means “The Land of Shining Waters”, and the film continues with an explanation of why and how the fountain was created.

A dedicated group of local businessmen were responsible for planning and constructing the fountain
A dedicated group of local businessmen were responsible for planning and constructing the fountain
Pouring the concrete foundation of the fountain, which weighs 35 tonnes
Pouring the concrete foundation of the fountain, which weighs 35 tonnes
The foundation of the fountain had nine sides for greater stability
The foundation of the fountain had nine sides for greater stability
 Fifty-four steel drums surrounded by liquidized polyfoam were installed in the base to provide permanent buoyancy
Fifty-four steel drums surrounded by liquidized polyfoam were installed in the base to provide permanent buoyancy
The core of the fountain was a 3,200-pound pump that was over 12 feet long and 15 inches in diameter
The core of the fountain was a 3,200-pound pump that was over 12 feet long and 15 inches in diameter

“Canada’s centennial celebrations sparked a worthy tribute to The Land of the Shining Waters,” Crary says. “The energetic citizens of Peterborough formed a planning committee to harness the water and build one of the world’s largest floating fountains. To create a graceful jet stream of water, 250 feet in the air, would truly be enhancing to the name Land of the Shining Waters.”

Although the fountain is now owned and maintained by the City of Peterborough, it was actually planned and built by a group of Peterborough businessmen, with local industry donating engineering skills and presumably all the materials for the fountain.

“In record time, the plans were transformed from the planning and drawing stage to 30 tonnes of concrete that was to float,” Crary explains. “The building yard was soon bustling with construction, forming and pouring a nine-sided fountain base, 23 feet wide. As a safety feature to provide permanent buoyancy, 54 steel drums and liquidized polyfoam were pumped and installed within the nonagon base.”

Installing the pump in the fountain base
Installing the pump in the fountain base
Before moving the fountain to its location in the lake, divers helped place three 1.5 tonne concrete anchors
Before moving the fountain to its location in the lake, divers helped place three 1.5 tonne concrete anchors
A barge was used to tow the 35-tonne fountain to its final location in Little Lake
A barge was used to tow the 35-tonne fountain to its final location in Little Lake
The Centennial fountain being towed to its final location in Little Lake
The Centennial fountain being towed to its final location in Little Lake

The core of the fountain was a 3,200-pound canister, over 12 feet long and 15 inches in diameter, designed to pump a steady stream of water 250 feet into the air eight months of the year. At the time, this was the only pump of its kind designed in the world, featuring a water-lubricated and cooled motor with only three moving parts, and special nozzle to increase the pressure of the water leaving the pump.

After constructing the base, the organizers created three 1.5 tonne concrete anchors and, using a Trent Canal system barge and scuba divers, placed them at the intended site of the fountain in Little Lake. After the anchors were in place, the base with the pump was towed out — with a combined weight of 35 tonnes — to the location.

A large crowd watched the installation, which included an official ceremony featuring a demonstration by the Peterborough Waterski Club and live music by a youth orchestra. At the ceremony, the fountain was formally donated to the City of Peterborough. A 100-year-old man and 5-year-old girl, representing the older and younger citizens of the area, were chosen to accept the donation.

The launch ceremony included a demonstration by the Peterborough Waterski Club (note the old Holiday Inn logo)
The launch ceremony included a demonstration by the Peterborough Waterski Club (note the old Holiday Inn logo)
A youth orchestra provided live music at the launch ceremony
A youth orchestra provided live music at the launch ceremony
A young and old citizen of Peterborough were selected to accept the donation of the fountain to the City of Peterborough
A pistol was fired to signal the first operation of the fountain
A pistol was fired to signal the first operation of the fountain
The first day of operation of the fountain. Forty-eight years later, the fountain is now a familiar sight on Peterborough's Little Lake
The first day of operation of the fountain. Fifty-two years later, the fountain is now a familiar sight on Peterborough’s Little Lake

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