Near the intersection of Second and Covington on the Merrill Plaissance, directly north of the Palmer Park Apartment Building Historic District at the Southern boundary of the park, there stands one of the most beautiful fountains of Detroit – Merrill Fountain.
Merrill Fountain was originally unveiled near the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Campus Martius. However, when automobile traffic increased in the downtown district, city officials decided to relocate the fountain at Merrill Plaissance. This relocation was done in 1926.
The fountain was commissioned to be built by Lizzie Merrill to honor his grandfather Charles Merrill. Charles Merrill was one of the long-time residents of Detroit who made fortune out of the city’s raw materials, specifically lumber. He was one of the city’s leading entrepreneurs in the lumber industry.
Two years after his death in 1872, his granddaughter Lizzie, who was married to politician Thomas Witherell Palmer, decided to erect a fountain to honor him and his contributions to the city. The location near the architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings was chosen. Following an Italian Renaissance style and using white marble, the fountain was built with overlapping basins along with baldachins. The fountain is designed with a variety of aquatic animals, two dolphins, maned lions, and a representation of King Neptune.
At the time of unveiling the fountain in 1901, Lizzie Merrill’s husband, Thomas Palmer was already a Senator. Palmer was a real estate developer and politician. He represented the city of Detroit in the Michigan Senate and in 1879 and 1880, he represented the state of Michigan in the US Senate. He also served as ambassador to Madrid when President Harrison, president of the United States at the time tasked him with the position. Much of the land that is now on both the west and east sides of Woodward are owned by him until he donated 160 acres of the land to the city of Palmer Park. He gave a speech at the dedication of the fountain, orating that artificial lakes, cascades and fountains such as Merrill Fountain are built to answer the city residents’ craving for the sight of Nature’s water. He stated that these architectural landscapes play an important role in bringing the people’s spirits up. They do their share by cooling the air, pleasing the eyes and soothing the ears of those who are tired of the usual city sights and noise. They are important in supplying the physical desires of people as they try to reconnect with nature’s elements such as water.
Unfortunately, Merrill fountain did not withstand the challenges of weathering and poor maintenance. Since its relocation to Palmer Park in 1926, water has not flowed in its water jets and basin. Detroit’s city officials commissioned an engineering office to assess the necessary repairs in 1950. The problem was, there was no financial fund present to pursue the restoration project. Hopefully, Merrill Fountain would get the restoration it needs just like the spectacular restoration done to Scott Fountain and the repairs done to Grand Circus Park’s Edison Fountain.