Friendship Fountain is a large fountain in Jacksonville, Florida. It is located in St. Johns River Park (also known as Friendship Fountain Park) at the west end of Downtown Jacksonville's Southbank Riverwalk attraction. The World's largest and tallest fountain when it opened, it has been one of Jacksonville's most recognizable and popular attractions.
The fountain and park were designed by Jacksonville architect Taylor Hardwick in 1963 and opened in 1965. The fountain's three pumps could push 17,000 US gallons (64,000 L) of water per minute up to ten stories in height. Friendship Fountain remained one of Jacksonville's signature attractions through the 20th century, but severe corrosion and deterioration to the equipment resulted in periodic closures in the 2000s. In 2011 the city completed a $3.2 million renovation to the fountain and the surrounding park.
The fountain and Friendship Park was designed by Taylor Hardwick, the Jacksonville architect who also designed the Haydon Burns Library. 14 acres (57,000 Sq mi) of land were donated for the project by the Southside Business Men's Club, an organization dedicated to the improvement of the Southside that was established in 1932 Begun in 1963 and completed at a cost of $1.7 million, the park opened in March 1965. The "world’s largest and tallest" fountain at the time, it became a popular tourist attraction.
The three pumps had a combined 750 horsepower (560 kW) and could push 17,000 US gallons (64,000 L) per minute; some streams as tall as a 10-story building. The enclosure for the pumps and controls was so large that the architect had to include it as an element of design. The Fountain was originally called the "Fountain of Friendship in Dallas Thomas Park"; friendship at the suggestion of a Rotary Club member and Dallas Thomas after the city's parks and finance commissioner. However, when Thomas was later involved in a scandal and indicted, the park was renamed in 1968.
Harbormasters and River City Brewing Company
The Acosta Bridge was rebuilt beginning in 1990, and the Diamond Head Lobster House was in its path and had to be demolished. The city agreed to use a big portion of Friendship park for the new restaurant and parking lot, cutting the park by more than half. Essentially, all the design structures in the park were removed-—with the exception of the fountain itself—-for what became a boondoggle. The new facility was named Harbormasters, and the city guaranteed a $2.9 million federal building loan on the city's land. Initial success was followed by lawsuits, a new owner, missed rent payments, foreclosure, loan default and finally closure in 1992. When the venture failed, the city had to pay off the nearly $3 million loan. The River City Brewing Company, which replaced Harbormasters in November 1993, has been successful, but because the city owns the land, the restaurant pays no property taxes.
Friendship Fountain functioned for over 20 years and was refurbished in December 1985, before resuming operation for another 15 years. Finally, wear and corrosion forced its closure at the end of the century. A five month, $1.3 million rehabilitation began when the fountain was drained in March, 2001. A new feature was added: six light towers with computer-controlled color-changing floodlights. Unanticipated damage to stainless steel pipes was uncovered, requiring a $97,000 increase in cost and two-month delay, but the fountain re-opened in December 2001.