Changes coming for Centennial Park’s ‘Uncommon Friends’ fountain

Published: July 18, 2022 5:28 PM EDT
Updated: July 19, 2022 7:38 AM EDT

The popular water fountain of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers, called “Uncommon Friends,” could be seeing some changes.

Many people will do anything to get a picture-perfect shot with the fountain, including stepping on the surrounding sculptures resulting in damages costing the city thousands.

The city wants to remove the water surrounding the sculpture and eliminate the soaring repair costs, but one important woman is very much against that.

Tom Hall, a Fort Myers Public Art Consultant said, “they will hopscotch over the islands and frogs and some critters on the pool in order to reach the island so they can take photo ops with inventors.”

uncommon friends
Uncommon friends sculpture (CREDIT: WINK News)

The Fort Myers Public Art Committee said it’s getting too expensive to repeatedly make repairs to the sculpture of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone on a camping trip in the Everglades.

“You can’t hire just anyone. You have to have an expert, and there’s very few in the country,” Hall said.

The plan is to replace the fountain with some sort of vegetation. But some people, like Jeannie Wilkins, widow of the fountain’s original artist, D.J. Wilkins, want the fountain to remain the same. She now has six months to find a sponsor to commit to the sculpture’s upkeep.

“There are generations of Fort Myers citizens that grew up with this fountain as part of their memory of what downtown Fort Myers was,” said neighbor Charmaine Wilson.

“When we went to have this maintained in February we discovered that there was a whole bunch of additional work that needs to be done to the tune of an extra $10,763 dollars which we really don’t have,” Hall said.

Uncommon Friends fountain in Centennial Park with water in it and operational. (Credit: City of Fort Myers)

That’s on top of the $70,000 hall said the city spent on repairs in 2018 and 2019.

“I think it’s a shame that there are some people that choose not to respect it and would do damage to it, but it’s worth keeping up with just like any other of our landmarks,” Wilson said.

The Wilkins team has hired a fountain maker from Cape Coral’s Waltzing Waters Incorporated to design a new and improved fountain.

The Historic Preservation Commission would have to approve any changes.