The lights of Mecom Fountain, one of Houston's showiest landmarks and a bright spot on the city's grandest thoroughfare, have been dark for seven months. Last fall, someone stole the fountain's 264 light bulbs and the bronze canisters that encased them.
"Hard to say," says Mark Ross, deputy director of facilities for the Parks and Recreation Department, which is responsible for the fountain's upkeep. "Precious metal theft is in vogue for sure."
But what began as an elaborate act of vandalism has grown into a community effort to bring light back to the fountain's three immense bowls.
A photo from one of the recent Iraq War protests.
"It's our Trevi Fountain, our Golden Gate Bridge," says Peter Brown, the exasperated city councilman at large who's been fielding complaints ever since the fountain went dark. "It's the urban icon that helps define this city."
Sanford Criner, board chair of the Hermann Park Conservancy, calls the 1960s fountain "one of the most, if not the most, beautiful and recognizable civic landmarks after dark in the city."
This is my part of town. We lived just south of the Texas Medical Center from the time we returned to Houston, from Treasure Island, Florida, in 1993 until two months ago when we moved to West University (just west of the TMC skyline; I photo'd here).
This fountain is precisely what Councilman Brown says it is.
When it broke a few years ago and sat silent and empty for a long period of time, it was as sad a time then as it is now at night. Rumor had it at the time that an anonymous benefactor wrote the city a $1 million check for the repairs after learning that the fountain might not work again for years, if ever.
This time all it needs to be re-lit is $100,000 (and some security guards to keep the bronze vandals away from it).