Fire damages fountain

Repairing 32-year-old campus landmark could cost up to $60,000

By Mary Boone

Arson destroyed the top tier of the Thompson Hall fountain on Oct. 3, causing as much as $60,000 in damage.

Todd Badham, director of security services, says the fire was reported at 8:45 p.m. and Tacoma firefighters responded shortly thereafter. Badham says the fountain's pool, which had been drained for the winter, was filled with an undetermined accelerant; flames reportedly shot six to eight feet above the fountain's highest tier.

The Tacoma Police and Fire departments are aggressively investigating the crime. Badham says a hotline set up to take anonymous tips about the fire has been very active.

In addition to destroying the pinnacle of the fountain, the fire melted plumbing and cracked the stone pool walls.

Jon Robins, director of facilities services, says his department is exploring repair options, which range from a true replication to using synthetic materials. The fountain's original blueprints no longer exist, so an architect must produce new drawings before bids can be taken. Robins says the fountain originally included lighting, so one of the options may include recreating that effect.

The fountain, which measures 74 feet across, has been a campus focal point for more than three decades. Former university President Robert Franklin Thompson wrote a letter to architects Nelson, Krona and Zeigler of Tacoma in 1966, saying that he'd like to have a fountain constructed on the campus. He wrote: "I have in mind something like the Frosh Pond at the University of Washington or, more specifically, a fountain such as found in Trafalgar Square in London. I have pictures of the fountain there, which is very simple, but it puts a very great spray of water out and has lights that play on it from below."

The fountain was designed by Silas Nelson after a basic design of one in the plaza of Zurich, Switzerland. It was officially named the Harry Brown Family Fountain at an April 1968 dedication.

Robins anticipates that repairs will be completed in time for the fountain's usual start-up in March.