“Meet me at the Fountain.” As the centerpiece of Franklin Square, the Rendell Family Fountain has become the place for guests to meet up at the park. But it was a long journey from its construction in 1838 to the Insta-worthy gathering place it is today.
After the city made Franklin Square a public park in 1837, the City Council passed a resolution calling for a fountain of “grand dimensions.” And for many years, the fountain delighted 19th century visitors to the park. But time and neglect took its toll and by the mid 20th century, what had once been a high point of a visit to Franklin Square became a broken eyesore. But then came the nation’s Bicentennial and in 1976, the City repaired and restored the fountain. Unfortunately, after that the fountain, along with the park itself, began a long, slow slide into disrepair and neglect.
It's the longest surviving fountain in one of William Penn’s original five squares, and is the oldest refurbished and functioning public water fountain in the United States.
Despite its sad condition, Historic Philadelphia, Inc., the non-profit organization that manages Franklin Square, recognized the fountain’s importance to the park and launched a campaign to restore and repair the fountain as part of it’s renovation of Franklin Square. The necessary work was extensive and the fountain required a complete overhaul. New modern plumbing… New jets and ducts… New concrete work… Mended marble work… Restored wrought iron fencing. After 30 years of neglect, in 2006 park visitors could finally feel the fountain’s gentle spray as the waters once again flowed.
But HPI wasn’t quite done. In 2019, the fountain was further renovated to entertain visitors with light and water shows featuring spinning, twirling jets, sparkling LED lights and all choreographed to a variety of musical selections. Fountain shows run day and night throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons. Each performance is a selection of one of six songs: “Levitating” by Dua Lipa; “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti, Theme from Rocky; “Beautiful Day” by U2; “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong; “Motownphilly” by Boyz II Men; “Firework” by Katy Perry. During the summer, the fountain serves as a refreshing respite during hot days. In colder months, the fountain glistens with more than 150,000 lights during the Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO.
The fountain is the longest surviving fountain in one of William Penn’s original five squares and to this day is the oldest refurbished and functioning public water fountain in the United States. On May 17, 2023 HPI renamed the fountain the Rendell Family Fountain to honor the Rendells for their years of unflagging support. As mayor of Philadelphia, Edward G. Rendell created Historic Philadelphia, Inc. and as the former governor, he was an advocate for HPI and its programming. Since leaving public office, he and his family have continued their commitment to HPI and its mission.