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Within the last two months, there have been a number of articles referencing the Bicentennial Cascading Fountain.

The Bicentennial Cascade Fountain, or Teachers Fountain, has been at the corner of 27th Street and Capitol Parkway since 1978. It was the result of a collaboration between the Lincoln Area Retired Teachers Association (now Lincoln Area Retired School Personnel), Nebraska State Retired Teachers Association (now Nebraska Association of Retired School Personnel) and Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial.

The fountain is now in a need of major renovation to keep it operating. The Lincoln Parks Foundation invites the public to share their input regarding a variety of options for repairs and improvements by completing a survey online or at Lincoln City Libraries before Aug. 1.

Frances Beechner was president of LARTA from 1976 to 1978 when much of the planning for and construction of the fountain took place. I would like to share some highlights from a narrative written by Mrs. Beechner that gives some history and background on how the fountain came to be.

At the beginning of Julius Humann’s term as LARTA president (1973-1975) the question was asked: “What contribution can LARTA make to the community for a lasting and meaningful commemoration of the bicentennial?”

There were many suggestions, but none seemed lasting. The director of Lincoln Parks and Recreation came to a meeting and presented plans for a fountain. After much discussion, the membership voted to accept the fountain plans for the project. They were assured the cost would be $50,000 to $60,000.

Humann was elected state president in the middle of his LARTA term and resigned. Henry Goebel assumed the presidency. Julius’ wife suggested that LARTA sponsor The Festival of Tables to be held at The Cornhusker Hotel and that the proceeds would start the fund. Other fundraising efforts were also explored.

Teachers from all parts of the state brought cookies to serve at The Festival of Tables. Since there was such a variety of cookies received, it was suggested they be put in a recipe book and sell it to raise money. There were two printings. Another group of members chose to make a quilt and raffle the chance to win it. They chose a schoolhouse pattern in colors of red, white, and blue.

It was a slow process to raise the money. The work could not start until the money was raised. When the $60,000 had been reached, the cost had increased. Goebel’s term ended, and Beechner was the next president.

More fundraising efforts were put in place that included a call on the community and teachers from across the state for help. In the end, somewhere between $90,000 and $95,000 was raised – enough for the fountain, the plaque (which lists the names of citizens honored by friends or relatives who contributed $1,000) and some landscaping at the north end of the fountain.

By the time the fountain was finished, Ely Feistner was president (1978-1980). The fountain was dedicated in the summer of 1978.

I encourage you to take the online survey. As previously noted there are a variety of options for repairs and improvements. On the survey, you will note there are four options being considered – two maintain the fountain, and two replace the fountain with something completely different.

Your input is needed to allow this iconic structure to remain as a tribute to Nebraska educators, past, present and future. In the words of Humann, at the Aug. 27, 1978, dedication: “And thus flows on their heritage of wisdom, like water from an ever-flowing fountain.”

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Robert L. Bussmann is executive director of the Nebraska Association of Retired School Personnel and past president of both that organization and the Lincoln Area Retired Teachers Association. He lives in Lincoln.

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