Building the Grand Haven Musical Fountain

The following quotes were taken from an interview with Grand Haven resident Glenn DePagter for the Tri-Cities Museum.

Listen to the original interview or read the full transcript.

"Creason (Dr. William), this is during World War II was, according to all of the reports so far that I’ve read . . . . .  he saw the fountain when he was overseas and he came back and he came and he talked to Bill Booth who was in his dentist’s chair one time. . . . . when I went up there in the city hall and we started talking about that fountain, there was a few lines on a piece of paper, okay, this is a conception of what it would be. . . . . ."


Dewey Hill before the musical fountain

Artist concept of the Musical Fountain






"There are always givers for the community and the city fathers know that.  We knew that when we built the fountain.  We went to Foster Poe, went to people and said that we have somebody that’s going to give a full carload of pipe to build this fountain – how would you like to contribute a little bit of money for all of the lights for it.  And they agreed, so then they went back to the other people and said they were going to give us money for the lights, how about you giving us money for the pipe, so they too agreed and that’s the way the story went, and that’s how we got the fountain built."

Clearing the land

Musical Fountain lights



". . . . we finally went across the river and put up balloons on a string and stood on this side of Washington Street and said well, that’s about how high it could be, then we worried about sound.  The lights are going up and down, and showing, but sound travels at 88 ft. a second and one day we would see the lights and then later here comes the sound – well, that isn’t any good, so maybe we better figure out how to do that. Then we had a fellow saying that you can’t pump 3300 gallons thru this pump without – you know what happens to a bath tub when the water’s running down the hole and you are trying to regulate that water – any if you have this type of pump and you get air in the system, the pumps will blow up.  Well, the first thing to do would be to get something off the ground, so we went to Welded Products, took a piece of pipe 2-1/2” diameter, and they bent that pipe around and we drilled holes in it and put nozzles in it and went over to the coal dock, and we finagled – Buzz Terrell did, he said he’d like to have a pumper down there to see how much water we could pump, to make sure it’s operating alright.  We hooked the pumper up to that thing and sure enough water went up in great shape and about that time we could figure out how much water it was using.  

Musical fountain valves 

 "That was in 1963, we started out there and got a bulldozer out there on the hill, and just at the last minute the guy that had part of the North Shore Marina, who had given it to us, said no – he was going to give it to us for five or six thousand dollars, sell it, and we would raise that money, but then he said he didn’t think he wanted to do that now, you got a big project going over there and so we asked how much he really wanted and he said he’d take twenty grand for it, it was a lot of money in 1963, and Paul Johnson of the Loutit Foundation said “we will buy that and give it to the city for twenty thousand. . ."




Musical Fountain speakers

". . . Marshall White who was the electronic genius of this thing deciding with his help, how the programs, we had to have a tape and it had to have two channels that were high fidelity channels. And we then tried to decide how on those two channels of music how
we would be able to get the fountain to relate to the moods of the music. And so, we decided that we would put on that third channel a voice count and the voice count would be as long as the program. And what we did with the voice count was we made a tape that counted from 1 to 100. And we played it and kept on repeating it until we had a tape that we could just put right on with the whole music tape and it would count to 100 and then 200 and then 300, 1, 2, 3, 4. Well that count was at slow speed. It was, if you played it at the regular speed it sounded like Mickey Mouse. Well, we used that count then and on the fourth channel of that tape, we would put pulses, one pulse or two pulses or three pulses and every pulse said, Freeden tape move once or if it had four pulses on it the Freeden tape would jump four spaces, dum, dum, dum, dum, and we could get up to six spaces a second. Well, then the Freeden tape which jumped had its holes punched in it and all of those holes had little fingers and the fingers would make contact with electrical relays and the relays would be what the fountain would do. The relays closing electrically would close and open pneumatic valves or the electric relays for the lights and so we would play the tape back and forth on this thing right here, this recorder and play it back and forth and write down what we wanted the fountain to do by code numbers. And then Bernie Boink would go over there and he would listen to, he would have our choreographic sheet and he had a console in front of him that had six buttons on it. And if we had three things down there, he was listening to the voice count, 123, 124, 124, 124, 23, 24, 25, 26 and he would be punching that thing three pulses, five pulses, one pulse, four pulse for the whole length of the program, see. And then the pulses were on that fourth channel and that’s how the thing was synchronized." 

Glen DePagter


Dr. Bill Creason

     Glenn DePagter                                                                  Dr. William Creason

 "Then it fell to my lot to design the hydraulic and the pneumatic valves and how they would be spaced and how they would be connected to the pipe inside the building.  Along about that time, because of the control valves being operated by air, Doc said why don’t you see Vince Erickson, at Gardner Denver and ask him what – if we can have a compressor.  I thought about that for a while – he was the President you know, the big boss, so I went to him and told him that we would like very much to have a compressor for the fountain, he said alright, how big?  I didn’t know, so I told him I would be back and he said “next time come prepared” so I went back to my desk and figured, I talked it over with my boss and with a fellow in sales, and I went up and told him we needed a ten horse compressor.  He asked how soon we needed it and I said whenever we can get it.  He said he would have it for us next week.  And here come a truck from Quincy, Illinois, they made the compressors there, and they brought it up to the fountain.  In those days you were able to say I was going to sign out, well, when the truck arrived at Gardner Denver, he said that I might just as well take it up to the fountain site and I called Doc Creason right away, and we went to the site, and nothing would do but when we got it off the truck, he wanted to take it down the steps and put it in the pump house.  We got it in the pump house and he wanted to take it out of the crate and set it up.  I told him we couldn’t do that with just two of us, but he said we could, so by golly, he twisted and monkeyed around and he got it out of the crate – you never saw a man with such dedication.  He said “I know it can be done.  That's his whole attitude."


Parked cars and boats watching the musical fountain

Grand Haven billboard featuring the Musical Fountain










". . . . when we thought of and designed the Musical Fountain, we had visions of people coming to see the fountain, sitting on the grass there and watching the fountain, absolutely free of charge, on the waterfront. . . . . . .we did it because we wanted the people of the City of Grand Haven to enjoy something.  Yes, if they would bring in their friends, fine, but we certainly didn’t have any minds that it was going to become a tourist town."


Telephone: 616-842-5560
Fax: 616-847-0570

Library Hours

Mon-Thurs 9AM-9PM
Friday 9AM-6PM
Saturday 9AM-5PM
Sunday - School Year 1PM-5PM
Sunday - Summer Closed

Cheapstacks Hours

Monday 10:00AM-5:30PM
Tuesday 10:00AM-5:30PM
Wednesday 10:00AM-5:30PM
Thursday 10:00AM-5:30PM
Friday 10:00AM-4:00PM
Saturday 10:00AM-4:00PM