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DTMB unofficially kicks off summer by flipping switch on the Brian J Whiston Memorial Fountain

State employees from in and around downtown Lansing got the opportunity to unofficially kick off summer as the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget flipped the switch on the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain, during a lunchtime event held May 21. 


The fountain is named for late State Superintendent Brian Whiston in honor of his work with Michigan public schools and K-12 students throughout the state. The fountain is located on the Frank J. Kelley Walkway in between the Ottawa and Hannah buildings, which are part of the Capitol Complex in downtown Lansing. 


This is the sixth year in a row that DTMB has hosted the event, which gives state employees the opportunity to mingle with colleagues, eat lunch, listen to music, and learn more about DTMB services.


This year, members of the Whiston family joined the festivities. Whiston’s wife, Beth and daughter, Kristen had the honor of flipping the switch on the fountain, which will run Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fountain is typically turned off for the season after Labor Day when falling leaves begin to collect in the filter.

Whiston family posing with the lever with the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain on in the background.


History of the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain

The fountain was erected in 1983 and was officially turned on during a ceremony held Sept. 7 of that year. Designed by Bloomfield Hills architect Sigmund Blum, the fountain stands 24-feet tall by 14-feet wide, and the basin is 4-feet deep. The tank holds 10,000 gallons of water, which is collected, filtered, and recycled through the fountain. Blum originally named his creation “Ottawa Falls” for the name of a nearby street and building in downtown Lansing, along with the significance of the Ottawa Indian Tribe indigenous to Michigan. The total cost of the original project was $170,000.


In 2005, Ottawa Falls went dormant due to state budget challenges. It was revived 11 years later after a handful of DTMB’s building operations employees took it upon themselves to get it back up and running. For roughly $1,200 in materials and their own labor, the group from DTMB was able to perform the necessary maintenance and repairs and restart the fountain in 2016. While it may seem like a minor feat, the return of the fountain’s flowing water was symbolic of Michigan’s resurgence after the Great Recession.


In August 2018, the Ottawa Falls fountain was renamed in honor of late State Superintendent Brian Whiston. Whiston worked diligently for Michigan students from an office in the John A. Hannah Building, which overlooks the fountain. The renaming of the fountain to the Brian J. Whiston Memorial Fountain honors his work, dedication, and memory.