In 1912, Simon Benson, a local businessman and philanthropist, donated $10,000 to the City of Portland to purchase and install 20 bronze drinking fountains, now known as Benson Bubblers.
Local folklore tells us that Simon Benson donated the 20 bronze drinking fountains as an effort to keep loggers out of the saloons at lunchtime. Others say that Benson was inspired after seeing a little girl crying at a Fourth of July parade because she couldn't find a drink of water. Either way, the Benson Bubblers have become an enduring historic legacy here in Portland.
Architect A. E. Doyle designed the four-bowl Benson Bubblers. Portland's first Benson Bubbler was installed at SW 5th and Washington. Another one of the original bubblers was installed in front of Benson's home, where it remains today, to commemorate his generous gift to the city.
The remaining 18 original bubblers were installed by 1917. Currently, the Portland Water Bureau proudly maintains 52 four-bowl Benson Bubbler fountains and 74 one-bowl variations throughout the city.
Despite their appearance, the single-bowl fountains are not Benson Bubblers. In fact, in the 1970s, the Benson family asked that the installation of the four-bowl fountains be limited to certain downtown boundaries so as not to diminish their uniqueness.
And while most Benson Bubblers are indeed downtown, there are a couple of notable exceptions. In 1965, the City of Portland presented a bubbler to Yosaku Harada, mayor of Portland's oldest sister city, Sapporo, Japan. Closer to home, Sam Hill, a friend to Simon Benson, asked to have a bubbler installed at his Maryhill Museum of Art.
- The bubblers flow freely from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily.
- Drinking water is fresh and not recycled. Because the bubblers run freely, they also boost the water quality in the rest of the distribution system by keeping fresh water flowing through the pipes.
- The fountains are routinely cleaned by Water Bureau staff.
- The fountains run 365 days per year unless a cold snap or excessively windy weather requires us to temporarily shut them down.
- In 2005, we installed small flow-restricting devices in the bubblers to reduce the amount of water the fountains use.
Find a Benson Bubbler
We also deliver water to decorative and interactive fountains across the city. Learn more about these fountains, including their hours of operations, on the Portland Parks & Recreation website.