Electric Fountain FAQs
Why was the original Electric Fountain torn down? Couldn't it be repaired?
The interior of the 1908 fountain vault had been flooded several times. There was significant biological growth (algae, mold, etc.) inside the vault. The walls and ceiling of the vault leaked and the floor drain was not fully functional. All of the electrical equipment was ruined by the floods, the valves were rusted in position and much of the plumbing on the fountain deck was rusted or missing. Engineering studies were done in 2005 to determine the condition of the concrete foundation and walls of the 1908 fountain vault. It was determined that repairing the original vault would be very expensive and not last more than 15 years. The decision to tear down the old fountain and build a new one was an economic one based on cost versus lifetime.
Wasn't the old fountain an historic structure?
Yes, the Electric Fountain is within the City Park Historic District. A plan for the new Electric Fountain was submitted to the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission. In return for a demolition permit, the new Electric Fountain vault had to be built to match the original vault, the water features had to be re-created on the new fountain and the original lighting effects had to be emulated by the new lighting system. In addition, an engineering record (measurements and photographs) and history of the fountain were prepared to document the original fountain before it was torn down.
Did you find the original plans for the fountain?
We found three pages of the blueprints for the original fountain in the Western History Collection of the Denver Public Library but they did not have details for many parts of the fountains. The remaining pages of blue prints are probably lost forever. Detailed analysis of photographs and post card illustrations from 1909 to the 1930's provided significant information for the reconstruction.
Did you build the new fountain from the original plans?
The new fountain vault was designed to match the dimensions of the original one based on measurements taken before the demolition. The new fountain vault has re-bar and a special mix of concrete for strength. The original fountain vault did not have any re-bar and was waterproofed with tar-covered felt between two layers of concrete. A full-size detail of the pier caps and ball finials was on one of the drawings and the new ones are an exact match to the drawing.
When was the original 1908 Electric Fountain torn down?
It was torn down in December, 2006 when Ferril Lake was drained for the Montclair Storm Water Project.
Is there any part of the original Electric Fountain still in use?
No, everything is brand new.
What happened to the original Darlington lighting equipment, color changers, control desk, etc?
This equipment was removed many years ago. If anyone knows of any of it being salvaged and preserved or if you have any photographs of this equipment, please contact Larry Kerecman at the Friends of the Electric Fountain.
What happened to the old nozzles? Weren't they all brass and bronze?
Many of the nozzles on the original fountain were not made from brass or bronze, but cast iron and steel. The main 1.5" nozzle and the 16 3/4" nozzles were brass and have been saved. Some of the manifolds and nozzles for special features on the fountain were also saved so that careful measurements could be taken to ensure that the new water features would look exactly like the original ones.
Was the fountain part of the construction push for the 2008 Democratic National Convention?
Serious plans to restore the original Electric Fountain began in 1986. The new Electric Fountain vault was already under construction in 2007 when the news broke that Denver had been selected as the site for the 2008 DNC. The convention did provide incentive to fund the project so the majority of the work could be completed in time for the convention.
Is the Electric Fountain construction completed?
Not yet. Several water features were added after the August dedication ceremony. In the spring of 2009, additional work will be done on the fountain lighting and control systems. Eleven of the twelve water features have been installed. We are in need of additional funding from donations and grants to finish the last water feature, lighting and some of the auxiliary equipment that were cut from the project when the price of metals caused the construction costs to exceed earlier projections.
How many nozzles did the original Electric Fountain have? How many does the new one have?
The original Electric Fountain had approximately 2087 nozzles. An exact count was not possible because two of the original water features had been removed from the fountain many years ago. At the end of the 2008 season the new Electric Fountain had 1393 nozzles operating. When the final water feature is completed, there will be 2005 nozzles. There were some minor changes in the nozzle configuration to reduce clogging.
What size are the nozzles on the Electric Fountain?
The "Old Faithful" center geyser nozzle has an orifice of 1.5" and is fed with a 6" pipe to give a very solid stream of water. The smallest nozzles have 3/16" openings.
The new fountain vault seems to stick out of the water higher than the old one. Why?
The original design of the Electric Fountain had the deck of the fountain vault just a bit higher than the water in the lake. Over many years the level of Ferril Lake was raised to increase the amount of water stored for irrigation. Eventually the summer water level in the lake was about 30 inches higher than the fountain deck, keeping the fountain plumbing totally submerged in lake water. When the new fountain vault was constructed, the height of it was adjusted to be at the same level relative to the lake surface as the 1908 fountain had been when it was constructed.
The paint color on the new fountain vault seems rather bright. Is this the original color?
Samples of the paint on the concrete of the original fountain were analyzed and the yellow color on the new fountain is a match to the original. It is actually a waterproof membrane, sprayed on with high temperatures and pressure.
What is the dark ring around the fountain vault?
The algae in the lake sticks to the fountain vault and then turns dark when the water level drops and it is dry. A high pressure washer will be used to help keep the exterior of the fountain vault as clean as possible.
How high does the center geyser shoot?
The design height is 90-feet, the height of the original center geyser. There are times when it does go higher and during the initial testing of the new nozzle we measured the height of the water at 132 feet.
How big are the pumps for the fountain?
There are two 125-horsepower pumps for the fountain in the maintenance building on the north shore of the lake. However, for most fountain shows they are not both used at once to conserve energy.
Where does the water come from that shoots out of the fountain?
The water is taken from Ferril Lake through the intake structure on the north side of the lake.
How many gallons are pumped through the fountain?
Between 600 and 4,000 gallons per minute, depending on which water features are active and how high they shoot.
How does the water get to the fountain nozzles?
The water is pumped under the lake bed to the fountain vault in a new 16" diameter pipeline. There is a dry room underneath the fountain nozzles where a large distribution manifold with computer-controlled valves sends the water into the pipes and nozzles on the deck of the vault.
How many water features are there on the fountain?
There are twelve distinct water features operated in multiple sections by 30 control channels running 37 proportionally controlled valves of 3", 4" and 6".diameter.
How many lights are there on the fountain?
There are 28 incandescent lights (white) and 116 multi-color LED fixtures. Each LED fixture has red, green and blue LEDs so there are a total of 376 channels of control just for the lighting on the fountain.
With all of the concerns about going "green", how did that affect the design of the fountain?
By substituting state-of-the-art LED lighting for most of the incandescent lighting on the fountain, over 40,000 Watts of power is saved at the peak demand point of a fountain show. The fountain lights are not turned on until dusk and they are shut off at 11PM each night when the park closes. At any one time, only a fraction of the fountain lighting is turned on due to the dynamic nature of the fountain shows. In addition, the electronic drives for the fountain pumps provide additional power savings.
Is the control room for the fountain still in the north tower of the pavilion?
No, the control room was moved to the red brick maintenance building on the north side of the lake.
What operates the fountain shows?
A PC running a highly customized program designed to operate musical fountains. The fountain shows are designed to last between 5 and 10 minutes and feature different parts of the fountain and lighting system. The fountain shows are then set up in a schedule to run during the course of the day.
I've heard that there will be musical fountain shows. When will they happen?
The plan for a system to broadcast music synchronized to the fountain shows was abandoned in 2009 due to a lack of funds for the transmitter and the show programming.
When will the fountain be turned on for the season?
The official opening day for the Electric Fountain is typically the Friday of the Memorial Day weekend but may be earlier if Denver Parks and Recreation can run through the two-day start-up procedure earlier in the month.
What hours will the fountain run?
In order to provide aeration of the water in Ferril Lake (good for the fish, bad for the algae) the fountain will run 22.5 hours a day with just a short break each night to allow the fountain deck to drain and the vault to be ventilated. During the day the fountain will change patterns every 5 minutes with short fountain shows on the hour. From 7PM to 11PM, the fountain shows will be every 5-10 minutes and lighted fountain shows will start at dusk.
How do I arrange for a special fountain show for my wedding, birthday, etc.
We are not currently able to take special requests for fountain shows.
How can I arrange a tour of the Electric Fountain?
Because the fountain is in the middle of Ferril Lake, for liability reasons tours of the fountain vault are not generally available. Requests for tours of the pump and control rooms on shore must be made through the Department of Parks and Recreation.
How can I make suggestions for a fountain show? What if I have more questions about the fountain?
Contact Larry Kerecman at the Friends of the Electric Fountain if you have questions about the information on this web site or the fountain shows. Contact Denver Parks and Recreation if you have questions about the fountain operation and management.
What is being done to protect the fountain from the possibility of future lightning strikes?
Denver Parks and Recreation, in cooperation with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, installed a lightning detection system that will shut down the fountain when there are nearby lightning strikes.