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Oregon's historic fountain getting a facelift this winter

Icon to be moved to a safer location next year

After more than 100 years on the job, Oregon’s historic and popular water fountain will be spending this winter indoors for some much needed R&R.

Oregon Street Department workers along with local volunteers moved Iron Mike, a century-old cast-iron drinking fountain, from its longtime location near the intersection of Washington Street (Ill. 64) and Fourth Street (Ill. 2), to an Oregon business last week for a facelift.

“With winter fast approaching we removed Iron Mike and delivered it to the E.D. Etnyre Co. to be cleaned and painted over the winter,” said Retired Oregon Street Superintendent Mike Bowers in an email last week. “Etnyre’s have volunteered to store Iron Mike over the winter for us, which I’m sure we all appreciate.”

Bowers is in charge of the project to eventually move the deep green fountain to a safer location on the Ogle County Courthouse Square.

In August, the Oregon City Council voted unanimously to spend $15,000 to move Iron Mike. The Ogle County Board has agreed to share the cost of the project.

“We’re moving it 15 feet because it almost got hit by a car several years ago,” said Mayor Ken Williams in August. “It’s an historic icon so we need to preserve it.”

City officials decided some time ago that the fountain should be moved after it was narrowly missed by a vehicle involved in a traffic accident.

The widening of the intersection about 10 years ago brought the fountain within two feet of the traffic at the busy intersection.

Williams said at its new location, on the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn, the fountain will be the focal point of a seating area with two benches and brick pavers around it. The exact design has not yet been determined.

Iron Mike was presented to the city and installed by the Ogle County Humane Society in 1901.

The Illinois Humane Society began erecting public drinking fountains in 1877.

They commissioned a design “both pleasing and practical” by which water would flow at three levels, first accommodating thirsty people at the top, then horses, and finally dogs and small animals near the ground level.

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