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New York State Theater No. 10 - The Fountain

“A special occasion for city officials was arranged to inaugurate the Lincoln Center fountain. For several months the fountain had been concealed beneath a bright green and white tent which had permitted work on its complex piping and electrical system to continue in all kinds of weather. When, in the first week of April, the tent was taken down and the construction fences removed, the whole plaza was at last opened out with the fountain as its centerpiece. A group of city officials, led by Paul Screvane, president of the Council, conducted a brief ceremony on April 6. At dusk, short speeches were made; the donor of the fountain, Charles Revlon, was honored; a button was pressed, the dancing waters rose and fell, Randall was captured by the press and TV cameras.” [1]

Photo from the Opening Night Program

Photo by Lauryn Johnson

“Completing the area between the Philharmonic Hall and the newly opened New York State Theater is the dazzling play of water and light known as the Lincoln Center Fountain. In a long tradition of outdoor displays utilizing the speeds and shapes, heights and densities that can be applied to water through pressure of air, the Lincoln Center Fountain can circulate 9,800 gallons a minute, or, say the experts on the subject, forty tons of water per minute. The facilities provided by mechanical engineers, Syska and Hennessy, Inc., and fountain engineer, J. S. Hamel of Hamel and Langer, enable the 568 jets of the installation to project water in heights from four feet to almost 150 feet vertically.

Photo by Lauryn Johnson

"As the jets themselves range in size from openings of three-eighths of an inch to two inches in diameter, the sprays are proportionately varied and productive of interesting combinations of water patterns. To provide for the effect of wind which might displace the fall of water from its basin (38 feet in diameter) an anemometer (wind measuring device), located on the roof of Philharmonic Hall, adjusts the spray to the prevailing wind velocity. In some extreme cases the apparatus shuts it down entirely. Variations of spray, density, speed, etc. are controlled by punched plastic tape known as "read-out tape" which can program any sequence of combinations and effects.

Photo by Lauryn Johnson

"Timing devices can also be utilized to activate the fountain at any hour pre-selected, or shut it down when its programmed sequence is completed. Special manual controls are also located on the portico of the New York State Theater for use when desired. The Lincoln Center Fountain was designed by Philip Johnson, architect of the State Theater, and built by the New York Department of Parks with funds provided by the Revlon Foundation, in honor of Charles Revlon. The Department of Parks has also built and is responsible for the plazas, North Plaza Reflecting Pool, pedestrian bridge, vehicular tunnels and underground garage. The lighting of the fountain is provided from 88 underwater fountain lights, totaling 26,00 watts. These provide a steady, unchanging light, blue at the core, with warmer tones at the outer perimeter.” [2]


"The estimated cost of the fountain was $200,000, an item not included in the capital budget of either the city or Lincoln Center. A special gift from the Revlon Foundation permitted it to be built.” [1]

(left) The plaza under constructions. Photo by William N. Jacobellis, 9/4/62.

(right) Philip Johnson inspects the fountain from within. Photo from the New York Times.

[2]  New York State Theater Opening Night Program, New York Public Library

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