The Historic Thomas Center is a significant cultural site purchased by the city of Gainesville in 1973. One of its main icons is a fountain said to date back to the period between 1928 and 1968, a time when the Center functioned as a hotel — some experts believe it was constructed when soldiers returned home after World War II.
Erica Chatman, the facilities director at the Thomas Center, said, “Practically everyone in the community has been here at some point to take a picture in front of the fountain, and there are a lot of people who are emotionally really attached to the fountain and the grounds in general.”
Because of years of deterioration, though, the Thomas Center has applied for a $75,000-grant from the Division of Historical Resources Bureau of Historic Preservation to restore the fountain. The Thomas Center also had to match 25 percent of the funds in its own budget to be considered eligible by the Florida Department of State.
Cracks around the bowl at the base of the fountain are causing leaks, which damage the ground, and four faces that should shoot water out of their mouths have been shut off — the damage from the cracks cause the water to shoot from all directions.
“If the grant is approved,” Chatman said, “it will allow us, on the interior, to rework all of the actual mechanical parts and the mechanisms that make the fountain run with modern-day parts to make it more efficient.”
Gainesville City Commissioner Randy Wells submitted a letter of recommendation toward the grant. “The fountain is one element of a much larger garden and a beautiful building,” Wells said. “I think it is very important to keep historic sites like this one restored.”
The grant would provide all of the money needed to repair the fountain. The state will be reviewing the grant application during the second week in December. Until a decision is made, the fountain will still be actively running.