Fountain at University Avenue and Queen Street.
For a water feature situated on a prestigious thoroughfare at the base of a prominent war memorial, the fountain on the north side of Queen Street at University Avenue doesn’t get much respect. Along the medium north and south of the fountain, University Avenue is a manicured display of floral brilliance. The length of the avenue is dotted with stately monuments. One of them, the century-old South African War Memorial, recently received a makeover, plinth to crown. The ninety-foot granite column now soars high above the intersection with renewed grandeur. As for the once-serene water feature it overlooks, it is currently bone dry and dilapidated. It’s been in this pathetic condition for a year now, and it will likely remain thus for a while yet.
When it comes to the fountain’s sorry state, no one single person is at fault.
Granted, those reckless drivers—and there have been several—who have ditched their automobiles in the fountain bear some responsibility. Take, for example, the vehicle that careened into the fountain last winter—this accident caused extensive damage to one of the granite waterworks.
The City’s policy states that repairs cannot be made until the case has been settled by the courts and insurance monies paid out. And even when the payment issue is finally resolved, repairs can’t happen too quickly. Because the fountain is considered a heritage property, the granite used to repair the fountain must come from the same location where it was originally quarried. The source in question? Finland.
Hopefully, now that the posted speed limit on University Avenue has been reduced by ten kilometers per hour (from a ridiculous 60 km/h down to a more manageable 50 km/h), vehicle-fountain collisions will diminish.
Problems with the fountain are more complicated than just hydroplaning cars, however. It is also the case that constructing a water feature above the subway line may not have been the most prudent course of action. The fountain was installed around the same time the University subway line was constructed, back in 1963. It has been surmised that vibrations caused by the subway’s passing have contributed, partially anyway, to foundation cracks that have appeared in the fountain.
Compound these factors with years of poor maintenance that have seen many of the expanding cracks ineffectively caulked, and the result is a leaky situation.
The fountain consists of three individual waterworks, each run by an electrical mechanism. Due to leakages, each of those mechanisms is also in danger of suffering irreversible damage.
The fountain’s upkeep is also a victim of bureaucracy. For one thing, it falls under the purview of three different City departments: Transportation Service, Toronto Water and Parks, and Forestry and Recreation. Further complicating the situation, it sits on the boundary between two municipal wards. Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) has taken up the challenges facing the fountain. Councillor Kyle Rae’s (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) office failed to return Torontoist’s telephone call.
When it comes to the fountain’s future, Vaughan is circumspect. “Toronto doesn’t do fountains well,” he said. “Their maintenance is costly. When one is out of commission, especially one as prominent as this one, citizens notice.”
It is Vaughan’s belief that as far as this particular fountain is concerned, it may require an entire rethink by all parties involved. Until then, for its own good, the water valves have been turned off indefinitely.
Photos by Ryan Walker/Torontoist.