Fountain Square: Bowling Green, Kentucky


Fountain Square, in the center of downtown Bowling Green, is considered by residents and community leaders to be the heart of their city and an iconic symbol of Bowling Green itself.

Designated Area

A two-acre parcel in downtown Bowling Green bounded by State Street, Main Avenue, College Street, and Park Row.

Art shows, concerts, and other special events draw thousands to Fountain Square each year. Photo courtesy of Joe Imel.

Planning Excellence

Fountain Square, in the center of downtown Bowling Green, is considered by residents and community leaders to be the heart of their city and an iconic symbol of Bowling Green itself.

The city's attachment to the square dates back to 19th century when the parcel was turned into a park after a courthouse that had occupied the site was torn down and rebuilt a block away. John Cox Underwood, Bowling Green's second mayor, drew up plans for the park in 1870. Two years later it was completed and named Fountain Park.

Contributing to the square's charm is its namesake ornamental black-iron fountain, framed by a pair of matching limestone arches at the park's entrances along Park Row and Main Avenue. Pathways lead to the fountain from these as well as two other entrances located on College and State streets. The luscious greenery remains largely unchanged from the design of R.L. Sturtevant, who was commissioned by the Bowling Green Garden Club in 1934 to develop a landscaping plan for the square.

Helping spur public interest in protecting Fountain Square and surrounding buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the addition of the Bowling Green Downtown Commercial District to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. With help of city officials, local merchants, and residents, over the past three decades the central downtown area has been turned into a vibrant business district with unique shops, restaurants, offices, and upper-floor housing tied together by the square.

Concerts, art shows, and other special events draw thousands to the square each year, but it also serves as a hub of everyday activity where residents and visitors can step back in time and enjoy the calm, comfortable atmosphere.

Day or night, Fountain Square is the hub of social activity in Bowling Green's historic downtown district. The square's namesake ornamental fountain is decorated with lights at night. Photo courtesy of Joe Imel.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Cultural and Physical Center of the City

  • Fountain Square is midway between Western Kentucky University and the Barren River between College Street and State Street, the city's primary rights-of-way
  • Historic plans dating to 1871 and 1877 show the square as the primary focus of the city's public space improvement at the time; explains why Downtown Redevelopment Authority calls the park "the centerpiece of the city's urban design heritage"
  • The square's original stone fountain was replaced in 1881 with a 6,000-pound, two-tier, black-iron fountain purchased from J.L. Mott Ironworks
  • Throughout its 140-year long history, the park has been the site of political parades, temperance rallies, marketplace exchanges, and other events, making it an integral part of Bowling Green's history
  • Originally the site of a log courthouse

Hub of Activity

  • The square is the heart of the downtown business district with retail, commercial, government, residential, and institutional buildings with original facades from the late 19th and early 20th centuries; it is always alive with tourists, local residents, and students from nearby Western Kentucky University
  • Several events attract large crowds to the park and customers to the surrounding business district, including a free summer concert series that draws up to 7,000 guests per show
  • Local entrepreneurs depend on the park's historic and scenic values to attract tourists and foot traffic, and the local merchants association has monthly meetings to organize events that draw crowds to the square

Public Commitment to an Iconic Space

  • The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Bowling Green one of its Dozen Distinctive Communities in 2006, singling out Fountain Square as a place that ties the business district together
  • The Downtown Commercial Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and in 1996 it was designated as a Local Historic District with historic preservation design guidelines in place to guide exterior alterations and new construction
  • Financial assistance and incentives for historic preservation are available for business owners on the square from the federal, state, and local governments
  • The Bowling Green-Warren County Focus 2030 Comprehensive Plan, published in 2010, calls for the continuation of a "Heritage Walk" from Fountain Square to the Barren River.  This will also include  a series of plaques in the vicinity of Fountain Square that will focus on the "History and Hearsay" associated with the buildings.
  • Miranda Clements, historic preservation planner for the city-county planning commission, is sure that Fountain Square will remain protected by the community: "Everybody understands the square is the heart of Bowling Green."

East Main Avenue borders Fountain Park to the north side and features charming shops and restaurants with outdoor dining. Photo courtesy of Miranda Clements.