Picnic Point Pump (the bubbler)

Many who walk or run to the tip of Picnic Point stop at this old pump for a drink of deliciously cold water before continuing their journey.

Ann Burgess poses next to the pump. Photo by Daniel Einstein.

The pump is of a distinctive style found in parks and waysides across the country because in addition to providing the usual downward-turned spigot used to fill water bottles, it also has an upward-turned drinking fountain. In southeastern Wisconsin, we sometimes call this a “bubbler,” a unique local term, that spouts a steady stream of drinking water once you’ve done enough pumping to fill it.

This unique drinking fountain pump was designed in the early 1950s by Gordon Baker, and is still made as a hand drinking fountain pump by the Baker Manufacturing Co. in nearby Evansville, Wisconsin. It incorporates a small reservoir, which solves the problem in conventional pumps that water stops flowing as soon as a person stops pumping, making it difficult for the pumper to get a drink unless someone pumps for them.

Gordon Baker was himself a frequent Madison visitor who loved Picnic Point, where he and his family spent many happy hours. His daughter, Ann Burgess, has been a longtime supporter of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, and was the initiator of the Biocore Prairie restoration project in the 1990s. She says she is very proud that the man who made this pump was her father.