A gem restored: Pittsburgh can rejoice over its iconic fountain

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If you had to pick one image that captured the essence of Pittsburgh, what would it be? The incline cars climbing the side of Mount Washington, the bridges that span the three rivers, the sports stadiums that feed the city's worldwide fame -- all these have a claim to be iconic. But nothing beats the fountain in Point State Park.

When the fountain is operating, it is hard to miss, with its great plume of water rising high into the air. It also has what real estate agents crave: location, location, location. The fountain is the focal point where the three rivers meet. Even the water comes from a mythic source: Pittsburgh's fourth, subterranean river.

But the fountain's claim to grandeur is all in its functioning -- and in April 2009 it was shut off for much-needed reconstruction. The good news is that the city will officially get back its iconic symbol on June 7 next year, a date that coincides with the opening of the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Riverlife, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust made the announcement Thursday.

The renovation of the fountain cost $9.6 million -- and more than half the money came from private contributions, corporate donations and foundations. And some of it came in small amounts -- $5 or $10 -- from residents who just wanted their fountain back. The fountain's reopening also marks the conclusion of the $35 million renovation of Point State Park itself.

Although the fountain is not particularly old -- dating to 1974 -- it has made friends big and small over the years. Soon it will take its place again as the sparkling gem set in the gateway to the city.

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