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City marks anniversary of Pittman water fountain

City officials celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Miss Jane Pittman Public Drinking Fountain at a public ceremony Wednesday at the Sibley Building.

Midge Thomas, wife of the late Dr. Freddie Thomas, came up with the idea to donate a public drinking fountain after her experience in downtown in 1987. She needed a drink in order to take medication and was charged for water.

That sparked her vision to install a free water fountain at Liberty Pole Plaza.

As part of the ceremony, a surprise mayoral proclamation was presented to Thomas. In the proclamation, Mayor Lovely A. Warren recognized her many contributions to the Rochester community, and declared the day to be “Midge Thomas Day” in the city.

The Miss Jane Pittman Public Drinking Fountain was named by The Freddie Thomas Foundation’s “WE CARE” committee. The committee chose the historical name based on the Ernest Gaines novel “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”

The unveiling of the drinking fountain was the climax of the Rochester “Main Street Improvement Project” under the administration of then Mayor Thomas P. Ryan. On July 30, 1989 thousands shared in the unveiling ceremony while Mayor Ryan, Ernest Gaines and Midge Thomas took their ceremonial drink from the brass fountain.