DLN: Reflections on a fountain

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Fountain ReturnStaff Photo by Vinny Tennis: Gene Gagliardi, in tan jacket, and his wife, Joan Chandler Gagliardi, look at a cast iron fountain they used to own as [Friends of Marshall Square Park] volunteers prepare to unload and return it to Marshall Square Park in West Chester on Monday May 14, 2012. A committee is in the works to have it restored and placed back in the park after it was removed decades ago.

The discovery of a small, long-lost item — say a necklace or a ring — can bring an exclamation of joy.

Think what it’s like to find a fountain.

The Friends of Marshall Square Park are understandably happy. They rediscovered a fountain that used to decorate the West Chester park they advocate.

The fountain went missing decades ago. No one was quite sure when, where or why it went.

Given up for lost after diligent efforts to find clues, plans were in development to recreate the monument.

Old pictures of the Victorian-era fountain show water gently shooting upward and falling into three bowls one after another into a basin surrounded by a small iron fence. The works were located in the middle of the walkway into the park from Matlack and Franklin streets. While certainly not a gigantic edifice, it was grand enough to fit appropriately into the park space developed about it.

Marshall Square is the borough park at the northeast corner of the village business district. When the park was laid out as the borough’s first public square in 1848, the area was pretty swank. (OK, still is. No need to generate unnecessary letters.) The park was named after Chester County botanist Humphry Marshall, world-renowned in the late 18th century for his work classifying plants in the New World. In keeping with the memory of Marshall’s life work, numerous species of shrubs and trees were located in the park. A fountain was a natural addition as time went along.

Times change. After World War II, old, established places like West Chester and old, established park areas like Marshall Square Park seemed very old-fashioned.

Like a lot of things once treasured, the park was taken for granted, passed by, forgotten and neglected.

In our day, the faded beauty of this park was rediscovered by a new generation willing to take up the labor of love needed to restore the botanical life, the walkways, the benches, the ambience.

What ever became of the fountain? The exact details of its removal remain unknown. A good guess — rank speculation actually — is that the fountain became disabled, and it was decided by persons unremembered that it was best to remove it as it had become a useless eyesore.

Perhaps it ended up in the borough public works yard. In West Chester, as in most American communities, a public works yard is a kind of community attic for all sorts of items, some more relevant to the functioning of a public works department than other things — but you never know when something might come in handy. Logic suggests the unwanted pile of metal would eventually disappear from there after being seen by an eye with more imagination.

Disappeared, but recalled by those today who, despite our hurly-burly time, appreciate better the appreciations of a quieter age.

Sleuthing by members of the community tracked the fountain down to a farm in the surrounding countryside. The return of the fountain to the borough should generate words of thanks for the caretaking.

Restoration work remains for both physical fountain and placement in the park. It will no doubt be consuming in time and money. We doubt the people who are involved will begrudge this continuing labor of love. Good luck.

Perhaps there is an aura about. We have a feeling there are several members of Friends of Marshall Square Park who have already muttered to themselves: “This time we don’t lose the fountain.”

That sounds like a good idea.

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One Response to DLN: Reflections on a fountain

  1. Janet Franklin says:

    I used to live 2 blocks from the “statue end” of the park and used to go there growing up in the 50’s. I continue to go to the gazebo every time I come home to visit, as I have lived in CA since 1975. I am so excited that they found the fountain and will be re-placing back to the park!! Thanks to the people who diligently searched and found it, and thank you to the owners who relinquished it for history sake!! 🙂
    J. Franklin
    Formerly of West Chester, PA

    Like

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