By JEREMY GERRARD
Posted: 05/15/12 12:01 am
Updated: 05/15/12 07:41 am
Staff photo by Vinny Tennis: Gene Gagliardi, wearing a tan jacket, and his wife, Joan, look at the cast iron fountain they used to own while volunteers prepare to return it to Marshall Square Park in West Chester on Monday.
WEST CHESTER — The Marshall Square Park fountain has been returned after its whereabouts stumped residents for more than 60 years.
“We’re thrilled to death, needless to say,” said Anne Walters, vice president of the Friends of Marshall Square Park.
Photographs date the cast iron Victorian fountain before 1906; however, residents recall the fountain disappearing from the park sometime before the mid-1950s.
Rumors throughout the years have led longtime residents to speculate about the tale of the fountain. Some say the borough removed the fountain, only for it to be stolen from its possession; others said they heard the fountain was hauled off as scrap metal for the war effort.
Though the fountain has been returned to its original location, some of its history remains a mystery.
Borough resident Gene Gagliardi said that in the early 1980s, as he was looking for a fountain for his farm in East Bradford, a friend told him about a woman in Cheyney who owned one. Though the owner was reluctant to sell at first, Gagliardi finally bought the fountain for $550. He then took it home, where he painted and restored it to working condition. The fountain turned out to be the original from the park and it stayed at Southdown Farm until this week.
Members of the Friends of Marshall Square Park said they had recently taken up efforts to replace the fountain, hoping at best to get a replica of the original.
“We had given up on the idea of finding this thing,” said Jim Salvas, secretary for the Friends of Marshall Square Park.
After plans to raise money for a replacement had begun, Holly Brown, Borough Council president and member of the park group, said someone had told her Gagliardi might know the location of the original.
Brown spoke with Gagliardi and confirmed the fountain’s location.
Southdown Farm owners Jeff and Mary Veale spoke with Gagliardi and originally agreed to let a group come and look at the fountain before deciding to donate it back to the park.
“We’re not getting a replica; we’re not getting a copy. It’s the real thing,” Walters said.
While the fountain currently rests in many pieces, members of the park group are looking to piece it together and restore it as soon as possible. When the fountain is complete, members said they will hold a dedication ceremony for it.
“This you know … it’s part of history,” Salvas said. “You go to the historical society and you’re going to see this thing over and over again as people gathered around it, kids playing around it. And to bring it back is just amazing.”
Volunteers willing to help with the restoration of the fountain are asked to visit http://www.marshallsquarepark.org.