A jet fountain will shoot a 30-foot-high plume today to mark the reactivation of the historic Chevy Chase Memorial Fountain, five years after a speeding car shattered its sandstone base.
The fountain was dedicated in 1933 to Chevy Chase developer Francis G. Newlands, and today, in a reenactment of the original ceremony, local and federal officials will be joined by 200 schoolchildren in singing patriotic songs.
Several thousand of the estimated 75,000 motorists who roar around the circle each day will face a series of five minute delays as police from the four jurisdictions responsible for the road and park stop traffic so people can cross the busy streets to attend the 10:30 a.m. ceremony.
Gavin Farr, great-grandson of Newlands, said the company Newlands founded marked its centennial in June. The $100,000 restoration of the fountain in the middle of the Chase Chase Circle National Park is part of the anniversary celebration of the Chevy Chase Land Co. The park and fountain are divided by the Maryland-District line.
"My great grandfather founded two companies, the land company and the Rock Creek Railway," Farr said. "He built the transportation to get people to the new village of Chevy Chase. We wanted to mark the anniversary of the company that had survived all these years, and restoring the fountain seemed a good way to do that."
Two years ago, Farr, the president of the land company, contacted the National Park Service to ask about renovating the fountain, said park Superintendent Rowland Swain.
"We were delighted," Swain said. "We had done the preliminary work, but there was still lots to do. We did not know when we could fund the work."
Swain said restoration moves much more quickly when a private company handles the drawings and contracting. He said the government has to adhere to a bidding process that is time-consuming.
Swain said he thought the private-public partnership formed to restore the fountain was a model of how such agreements should work.
"They did an excellent job," he said. "Their architectural firm worked with our staff. They produced drawings to our specifications and then they contracted for the work."
Farr said he thought the agreement between his company and the government was a good example of President Bush's call for "1,000 points of light. We are community people helping the government."
Cooperation between the company and the government took a different form when 30 sandstone blocks taken from the west side of the Capitol in the 1950s were used to replace the stones too badly damaged for repair in the fountain, said Earle Kittleman, a Park Service spokesman. The stones, which had been in storage for the last 40 years, had been taken from the same quarry as those used in the fountain. The quarry is now closed.
Today may be one of the very few days when crowds, let alone individuals, will get to see the fountain up close. Lights on Chevy Chase Circle are set for fast-moving traffic. There is none to aid pedestrians trying to cross into the park.
Swain would like to change that.
"We have had informal contact with the Department of Transportation to request their views on how we can can allow people to cross into the park," he said. "A traffic sign won't be enough. We will request traffic lights."