Water & Wonder: Spectacular Main Fountain Garden Shows

By Longwood Gardens

Dramatic. Breathtaking. Astounding. Extraordinary. A rare achievement in design, engineering, and spectacle, fountain shows in the Main Fountain Garden have always evoked superlatives. 

Main Fountain Garden (2017) by Duane ErdmannLongwood Gardens

Sections

I. Fountains by day or by night ...
II. A spectacle like no other
III. Main Fountain Garden shows (1931–today)

Main Fountain Garden (2019) by Becca MathiasLongwood Gardens

I. Fountains by day or by night ...

Longwood’s Main Fountain Garden is the most impressive fountain display in an American garden setting. It has combined artistry and engineering to spectacular effect since its debut in 1931 through its most recent revitalization in 2017. Its scale and grandeur are astonishing, welcoming visitors to view its garden features and fantastic fountain performances by day or night.

Main Fountain Garden (2017) by Daniel TraubLongwood Gardens

A large, gently sloping green lawn, inscribed by boxwood hedge forms and pathways, invite visitors to explore all of the fountain features from the intimate grotto to the large-scale show fountains.

Main Fountain Garden (2019) by Becca MathiasLongwood Gardens

Garden embellishments are found throughout—the sculptural elements supplied amount to hundreds of components, including wall fountains, carved vases, wellheads, balustrades, and whimsical figures of flora and fauna.

Main Fountain Garden (2017) by Sam MarkeyLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden (2019) by Becca MathiasLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden (2019) by Joe HareLongwood Gardens

The garden features 1,719 fountains. The larger show fountains entertain with dazzling effects including rotation and power that can rocket water into the air up to 175 feet.

Main Fountain Garden (2017) by Daniel TraubLongwood Gardens

As the sun escapes the sky the fountains take full bloom illuminated with a kaleidoscope of changing color movement, sound, and spectacle.

Main Fountain Garden (2016) by Harold A. DavisLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden (2019) by Becca MathiasLongwood Gardens

At their best, the fountains create a theater of light, with layers of color heightened by formal garden elements and intensified by the dark night sky.

Our Guests Love the Main Fountain GardenLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden | Fireworks & Fountains (2017) by Sam MarkeyLongwood Gardens

II. A spectacle like no other

Guests wait in silent anticipation. The music begins. The fountains start to dance. Water arches, bends, breaks, and soars. Rainbows of color climb and fall in intricate patterns against the dark canvas of distant trees. Fireworks burst in the night sky. Audiences have been captivated by the Main Fountain Garden’s elaborate displays, transported by their precise design and extraordinary artistry. Revitalized systems and new technologies mean our choreographers can create even more dazzling entertainments.                            

Fireworks & Fountains ShowsLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden (2016) by Harold A. DavisLongwood Gardens

Longwood founder Pierre S. du Pont wanted the Main Fountain Garden to be a destination for spectacle. The design of the garden mimics a theater, with the fountains as a “stage” area poised for performances.

Main Fountain Garden (2017) by Daniel TraubLongwood Gardens

Like other artists, fountain choreographers have a language of their own using music, light and color, fountain effects, and fireworks to create a unique emotional experience.

Main Fountain Garden | Fireworks & Fountains (2013) by Daniel TraubLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden (2018) by Harold A. DavisLongwood Gardens

Choreography of fountain effects presents a unique challenge. Designers must have a complete understanding of the effects each jet is capable of creating, and how each effect is best used to enhance the show.

There are 1,719 jets and streams operated by 68 pumps in the fountain systems.

Main Fountain Garden (2017) by Becca MathiasLongwood Gardens

The musical selection directs the design of the show and communicates the mood to the audience.

“When I am designing a show, I look at when to let the music drive the water and when to let the water drive the music."
— Brady Gonsalves, Longwood Fountain Choreographer

Main Fountain Garden (2019) by Becca MathiasLongwood Gardens

Light and color add drama to the water effects. LED lights enable the fountain choreographers to select any color imaginable, as well as snap lights on or off instantly. The garden features nearly 1,400 LED units, with unlimited color combinations.

“I want my fountain designs to tell a story, almost like a theater performance. I try to visualize the story the music is telling and then communicate that through lighting effects."
— Tim Martin, Longwood Fountain Choreographer

Main Fountain Garden (2017) by Harold DavisLongwood Gardens

An additional fountain feature marries fire and water. Thirty flame jets throughout the garden amaze as they shoot a flame out of a 10-foot-tall water jet.

Main Fountain Garden (2019) by Becca MathiasLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden | Fireworks & Fountains (2017) by Sam MarkeyLongwood Gardens

Fireworks are used at special evening fountain shows. They add in new elements of sound, color, and movement that complement the fountain and lighting effects. The fireworks make for an even more dramatic spectacle.

“Fireworks display ... was a multi-sensory experience that many in the audience were thrilled by. I have seen many fireworks displays in my life, but never anything like this.”

— Guest comment, 2014

Fountain ChoreographyLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden | Fireworks & Fountains (2019) by Harold A. DavisLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden (2014) by Sam MarkeyLongwood Gardens

III. Main Fountain Garden Shows (1931-today)

Pierre du Pont’s vision: Tall, spectacular fountains against a deep green backdrop atop a sunken garden of massive, billowy boxwood, defined by a crisp allée of trees. The fountains can be operated at will and illuminated in all the colors of the rainbow at night. The location is isolated—visually providing no competition for the stunning fountains and lights.    

Longwood Gardens Main Fountain Garden PostcardLongwood Gardens

During Pierre S. du Pont’s lifetime, day and evening fountain shows dazzled guests attending private entertainments and enchanted the public when they were invited for special performances, concerts, or plays.

Main Fountain Garden (1958) by Gottlieb HampflerLongwood Gardens

The illuminated fountains made their public debut after the September 15, 1931 Marine Band concert in the Conservatory.

“The illuminated fountains ... can safely be called the most spectacular night display on this continent, if not perhaps the world.”
— Report from 20th Annual Convention of the American Association of Port Authorities, which viewed an illuminated fountain display in October 1931

Main Fountain Garden (1958) by Gottlieb HampflerLongwood Gardens

The original control console featured an intricate system of 226 small toggle switches and 125 levers to remotely activate fountain lighting and effects to operate the fountain shows. It was replaced with a computer-controlled console in the '80s.

A Visit to ... Longwood Gardens (1961)Longwood Gardens

During early shows, guests gathered on the Main Fountain Garden Overlook just as they do today.

A Visit to ... Longwood Gardens (1961)Longwood Gardens

"Du Pont created a ‘wow’ factor with the Main Fountain Garden. He wanted people to be amazed by all the color, drama, and grandeur."
— Colvin Randall, P.S. du Pont Fellow

Main Fountain Garden (1981) by Larry AlbeeLongwood Gardens

For the first time in 1980, a fountain show was synchronized with a musical score. That year also marked the marriage of fireworks and fountain shows, now a favorite with guests and staff alike.

Main Fountain Garden | Fireworks & Fountains (2006) by Larry AlbeeLongwood Gardens

Fountain show during Longwood’s Centennial Celebration in 2006—the Main Fountain Garden had been in operation for 75 years.

Main Fountain Garden | Philadelphia Orchestra (2008) by Larry AlbeeLongwood Gardens

During this rare, live performance in the Main Fountain Garden the Philadelphia Orchestra performed Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever on June 28, 2008.

Main Fountain Garden | Fireworks & Fountains (2009) by Larry AlbeeLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden | Fireworks & Fountains (2006) by Larry AlbeeLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden (2014) by Sam MarkeyLongwood Gardens

In 2014, Longwood embarked on a three-year project that revitalized the Main Fountain Garden. In celebration of this forth-coming effort, Longwood ran the fountains run one last time before the project began.

Main Fountain Garden by Daniel TraubLongwood Gardens

In 2017 the garden reopened with new controls and fountain features. Using advanced software, today’s choreographers have nearly 9,000 options for every second of fountain programming. They rely on visualization software to design and preview new shows.

Main Fountain Garden | Fireworks & Fountains (2017) by Daniel TraubLongwood Gardens

New lighting, fountain effects, sound systems, and more make this a memorable experience for all.

Main Fountain Garden by Daniel TraubLongwood Gardens

Main Fountain Garden (2017) by Duane ErdmannLongwood Gardens

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