Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain closed after being painted red by protesters overnight

Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain closed after being painted red by protesters overnight

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Park District said Saturday morning that the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park will be closed “until further notice” after it was vandalized by protesters overnight.

Protesters dyed the fountain water red and spray-painted the bricks in the surrounding square.

A source told CBS 2 vandals dumped highly concentrated pond dye into the water. The paint is believed to be non-toxic, but still has the well closed indefinitely.

The messages “Gaza is bleeding” and “Stop the genocide” were also scrawled on the square in front of the fountain. The messages have since been removed.


Staff said the vandalism happened sometime after 11 p.m., after the fountain was closed for the night. Whatever red substance was used gradually spread through the water around the well.

Staff said they had drained about half of the water late Saturday afternoon. But they said that every time they put clean water in, the water remained so opaque that they think whatever was used to color the water is still too strong to dilute.


The fountain is re-lit manually by the staff every morning. Staff are conducting a routine look around to check the condition of the nearly century-old structure.

It was these employees who noticed the problem.

Staff said that while the red substance did not appear to stain, they were still concerned that it could permanently damage the well. So they made the decision to keep the well closed until the problem was resolved.

Chicago police said no arrests were made and no injuries were reported.

During the day on Saturday, many people were left confused as they were hoping to see the iconic landmark in action.

“I was expecting to see water! I mean, come on, and yeah, it’s a little disappointing,” said Tom Martin, who was visiting from Washington. “I’m kind of sympathetic to what they’re trying to achieve, but that’s not the way.”

“We’ve been walking around all day and I’m like, what? And so I go to the phone to see what time it comes on, because I thought maybe it’s a nighttime thing — and that’s when I found the news article that was, I think, vandalized,” said Karen Wintz, who was visiting from the New Orleans area.

Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain vandalized by protesters

A staff member said he gave a water sample to the Park District’s environmental team, but there was no word on what caused the color change Saturday afternoon.

The fountain will remain off until the water color returns to normal. Updates on the fountain’s status will be posted via the Chicago Park District’s X account.

A few weeks ago, a pro-Palestinian protest tent camp was installed in front of Buckingham Fountain – only to be immediately demolished by the Chicago police.

Brief History of Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain, meant to represent Lake Michigan, opened in 1927 and is still one of the largest fountains in the world.

Its wedding cake-style design was inspired by the Latona Fountain at the Palace of Versailles. The sets of seahorses symbolize the four states the lake touches: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana.

Contrary to what some might claim, the name Buckingham Fountain has nothing to do with Buckingham Palace or the British Royal Family. Kate Buckingham, a Chicago art patron and philanthropist, donated the fountain to the city in memory of her brother, Clarence.

Architect Edward Bennett – a longtime associate of the legendary Daniel Burnham – designed the fountain with French sculptor Marcel François Loyau and engineer Jacques Lambert.

The Buckingham Fountain display uses up to 15,000 gallons of water per minute and sprays water 150 feet into the air.

The well was operated manually from opening until the 1970s and was first automated in 1980 using an on-site computer and remote monitoring system. The system was originally based in suburban Chicago, but was moved to Atlanta for several years in the 1980s and 90s.

The monitoring system returned to the suburbs in 1994, and as of 2013, all automation and monitoring has been on-site.

For decades, Buckingham Fountain has been famous for its colorful light shows at night. The fountain contains a total of 820 lights.

An old Chicago Park District brochure said that Mrs. Buckingham herself worked with technicians to develop aesthetically pleasing light mixes, and “indeed, there is a mystical aura around the lighted fountain that suggests moonlight—in fairyland “.