There are 280 fountains in Rome, most of them working, some of them dating back to the 16th century. There are 50 fountains at the Palace of Versailles in France.
So why is it so difficult to maintain a working fountain in downtown Salem?
There may be good reasons for dismantling the fountains that have decorated Town House Square and the plaza in front of the Peabody Essex Museum since the heyday of Salem's urban renewal effort in the 1970s. But the inability to keep them running shouldn't be one of them.
From where we sit, the one marking the site of the city's first water source and bearing images from the Hawthorne tale "A Rill From the Town Pump" is the more attractive of the pair. Unfortunately, there appears scant sentiment for saving either in the rush to remake the pedestrian mall and perhaps allow vehicle access on an occasional basis.
Besides being pieces of public art, the sight and sound of falling water can provide much-needed relief, especially during the hot summer months, whether one is rushing about doing errands downtown or is a visitor dealing with antsy children. We hope if the existing fountains are consigned to the scrap heap, the city will find features that are equally soothing to replace them.