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On Sept. 15, 1996, thousands of people gathered at The Circle in Berkeley’s Northbrae neighborhood to celebrate a landmark occasion: the dedication of the restored Fountain at The Circle, the sparkling centerpiece of the city’s first public art project.

Designed by famed architect John Galen Howard and erected in 1911, the original fountain had been gone from The Circle for nearly 40 years, after being struck and destroyed by a runaway truck in 1958. Howard’s adjacent Fountain Walk had become overgrown and fallen into serious disrepair.

This month, the fountain celebrates another landmark: its 20th birthday – a milestone reached thanks in large part to neighbors and friends near and far who have donated generously to keep it smoothly functioning and flowing over the years.

Those donations have supported the work of Friends of the Fountain and Walk (FOFW), the small, all-volunteer neighborhood nonprofit that was created in the early 1990s to bring the fountain and nearby Fountain Walk back to life.

Now, 20 years on, FOFW is, like these historic treasures, still an everyday presence in the Northbrae neighborhood, working diligently in partnership with the City of Berkeley to keep these beloved landmarks operating and preserved for future generations.

With the help of volunteers and the support of tax-deductible donations, FOFW has been able to make numerous improvements to the fountain and walk over the years, most recently overhauling the aging pump system that powers the fountain.

Other projects have included restoring crumbling elements of the classical balustrade surrounding The Circle and along Fountain Walk; replanting lower Fountain Walk; resurfacing the fountain’s main pool; adding cast-stone benches around The Circle; and making 3-D images of all the elements of the fountain structure so that any that might become damaged or worn can be faithfully re-created.

Volunteer work parties, meanwhile, are held the first Saturday of every month to do cleanup and regular maintenance on The Circle and walk, while another crew of volunteers regularly inspects and maintains the fountain works. During the winter holiday season, volunteers decorate with lights around the fountain and wreaths on the bears.

For years, all these efforts have been led by two neighbors: Sara and Harvard Holmes. They helped shape the role of FOFW as a true partner with the City of Berkeley – making it the first community organization of its kind in the city. Whether raising funds, enlisting volunteers, working alongside city staff, or dropping everything to attend to a fountain emergency, the couple has given everything needed to ensure that the treasure they helped build remains a valued and viable hallmark of our city.

Now, after more than 20 years of leading FOFW, they are stepping down from their roles as FOFW president and treasurer, respectively. Having been the heart and soul of the organization from its inception, their decision marks another major milestone for FOFW. Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, who helped establish FOFW and served on the board for many years, has also stepped down from her post as a director.

Fortunately, other neighbors dedicated to FOFW’s mission have stepped forward to help carry on their work. As of July, an expanded board of directors has been seated, and new officers of the organization have been elected. They are: Michael Gray, president; Charles Wilson, treasurer; Patricia McKee, secretary; Scott Dunlap, Harvard Holmes, Sara Holmes, Jim Reynolds, Holly Rose, Steve Weindel, directors.

Twenty years is a true milestone. FOFW plans to mark it simply, erecting a banner noting the anniversary – and seeking continued support for its efforts — on The Circle. Look for it to go up in September. It will also present an exhibit on the fountain and walk in a monthlong display opening Sept. 1 at the Albany Public Library.

You can find more about the history of the fountain and walk, the work of FOFW, and how you can donate or volunteer on our newly re-designed website: .

You can reach FOFW by email at, and connect on Facebook at

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