A flag was raised in Fountain Square on June 14, Flag Day, recalling the 1951 visit of General Douglas MacArthur, who came to Fountain Square to honor Evanstonians who had died in the nation’s wars. With the raising of the flag, and speeches, prayers and songs, Fountain Square was rededicated.

Clifford Washington, commander of William B. Snell Post 7186 of Veterans of Foreign Wars, quoted Gen. MacArthur, who said Fountain Square would be “a place for all people to come and remember the men and women who laid down their lives for their country.”

Four pillars bear the names of Evanstonians who died in the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.

Still known as Fountain Square, the plaza was renamed Veterans Memorial Plaza in 2003. That conflation of names may represent the twofold function of the place: honoring fallen servicemen and -women, and serving as the gathering place for the community.

Mayor Lorraine Morton said, “Fountain Square, the flagpole, the bricks and the fountains again establish [Fountain Square] as Evanston’s identity in its quest for peace, its gratitude for the supreme sacrifices [of the soldiers] and as evidence of the pride of every citizen.”

Historian Janet Messenger described the life of Fountain Square, from its beginning “in 1876, when incorporated Evanston was 13 years old and the country was marking its 100th birthday,” to its present. Though never a square, Ms. Messenger said, the plaza was “always for the people.”

Evanstonians, Ms. Messenger said, “lit up the Square with a bonfire in 1892, celebrating the merger of Evanston and South Evanston, a union intended to save Evanston from the encroachment of land-hungry Chicago and its non-temperance ways.”

Past events that have taken place in Evanston’s community plaza include the hanging of the German Kaiser in effigy at the end of World War I; Evanston’s first annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, in 1923; the lighting of the new Tallmadge streetlights during the darkness of the Depression, in September 1923; and the gathering of residents to celebrate the end of World War II.

In ending her speech, Ms. Messenger said, ” …[W]ith today’s rededication, the waters [of the fountain] will delight us again. During the many events held here – including holiday observances, art fairs, music programs and veterans’ ceremonies – the water, as that 1876 orator said, will once again be ‘tinted in the sunlight with all the colors of promise.’”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...