Virginia, Minn., Fountain and Rock Garden Earn National Recognition

For immediate release

Release dated: 
June 28, 2017
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, MNHS, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org, 651-259-3148 or Lauren Peck, MNHS, lauren.peck@mnhs.org, 651-259-3137
Greg Gilness, chair, Committee to Renovate Olcott Park Electric Fountain and Rock Garden, ggilness@mediacombb.net, 218-741-2951
Ronda Harvey, director, Virginia Community Foundation, director@communityfoundation.com
 

Virginia, Minn., Fountain and Rock Garden Earn National Recognition

Olcott Park Electric Fountain and Rock Garden added to the National Register of Historic Places

The National Park Service listed the Olcott Park Electric Fountain and Rock Garden in the National Register of Historic Places on June 5, confirming what local residents have known for years, that the place is special.

In 1937, the park board of the city of Virginia, working with the Works Progress Administration (WPA)—a New Deal-era program designed to get young men working during the Great Depression—added a major attraction to Olcott Park: a fountain and pool within a sunken rock garden and an observation deck. The fountain served as a centerpiece with multicolor lights shining on changing streams of water. The fountain’s mechanism was built by General Electric, which showcased the technology at the Century of Progress Exposition held on Chicago’s lakefront during the summers of 1933 and 1934.

Photo late 1930s  Postcard, date unknown

According to the National Register listing, the Olcott Park Electric Fountain and Rock Garden is significant as an example of a local partnership with the WPA to “provide an unusual public space, which made a significant and lasting contribution to the social life of Virginia.” Its engineering is also notable as an example of “an innovative, electrically-powered, colored-light fountain produced during the 1930s by a nationally recognized manufacturer.”

The city operated the fountain until 2013 when leakage issues made water circulation to the pumps difficult. In addition, replacement parts for the fountain’s mechanism were no longer available.

Plans are underway to restore the fountain to its original working order using new equipment and repair the observation deck and rock garden.

About the National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America's historic and archaeological resources. In Minnesota, National Register nominations are reviewed by the Minnesota Historical Society, Heritage Preservation Office, and the Minnesota State Review Board, which meets four times a year. Once approved, nominations are forwarded to the  National Park Service for final review and for official listing of properties in the National Register.

About the Minnesota Historical Society

The Minnesota Historical Society is a nonprofit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. MNHS collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, MNHS preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history. Visit us at www.mnhs.org

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.