The History of the Jack Loew Memorial Fountain at Marshall Square Park
The history of West Chester is series of stories about the community, its members and their work, expressed around us now in her streets, parks and structures. The history of the fountain is such a story about this community, this neighborhood, this park.
The fountain is in Marshall Square Park and next to Marshall Street, both of which are named after the pioneering 18th century botanist Humphry Marshall. That name was chosen for the park by its founders, Dr. William Darlington, Joshua Hoopes, and David Townsend, themselves botanists. These three established the park as an arboretum in 1848. Some of the specimen trees around you date to that period, years before the founding of Central Park in New York.
By 1878, the property was deeded to the borough and became a full-fledged public park, with pathways and structures, a reservoir and a rudimentary water feature at this spot, called “the rockery.” A small iron fountain was added to the rockery, but by 1889, it was described as “old and dingy.” To replace this small fountain, Borough Council sent council members W.T. Shepherd and W. S. Bishop along with West Chester first Fire Marshall, Theodore P. Apple to Philadelphia with instructions to buy a “fine ornamental fountain.”
First Installation of the Fountain
On May 22, 1889, the delegation of three visited Wood & Perot’s Ornamental Iron Works on Ridge Avenue in Philadelphia, where they purchased the fountain you see here. They paid the great sum of $170, which would be about $4,500 in today’s money.
The Daily Local News followed the progress of this new fountain in almost every edition. Reporters noted when the fountain sections arrived by rail at the Market Street station. They spoke of a group of people greeting the train and accompany the fountain to the park. On June 7th, the fountain was in place and it’s water turned on for the first time, to the delight of all.
It was slightly different from what you see today. At the top was a metal basket with a ball inside, kept in motion by the spraying water. We never found that part of the fountain. We suspect the motion of the ball may have torn apart the top of the fountain, explaining some of its further history.
The area around the fountain was laid shortly after the installation of the fountain by local bricklayer Thomas L. Lewis. Mr. Lewis included a yellow brick shield, in honor of the Union Veteran Legion, an organization open only to those who served at least three years in the Civil War. The Legion died with its members, but we have restored their brick shield.
Once operating, this fountain became a popular community gathering place. We have heard and read stories and seen photos of residents visiting it and children playing, dating from that time until well into the 1950s.
In 1932, a Daily Local editorial on the fountain was enthusiastic about its place in community life, saying…
“There is no social line at the fountain, white, colored and all the intervening shades being welcome, for it is realized that the sun shines upon all races, and water flows freely for all to admire.”
Fish swam in the fountain, originally captured from Eachus Dam, but housed in deeper waters during the winters.
Fountain Lost and Found
By the early 1950s, the fountain had deteriorated. All but the bottom tier of the fountain was removed by the borough and put in storage. The 4-foot-deep basin was filled with dirt, all but covering that bottom tier. After being removed from the park in the 1950’s, the fountain survived multiple owners and locations in Chester County. A few years back, a storm caused damage to a nearby 100 year old tree that caused a major branch to fall on the Swiss Cottage – fortunately, only a corner of the roof was damaged and the fountain that was stored inside remained safe – surviving once again.
At some point, the three smaller tiers went missing from storage. We don’t know the full story of its disappearance, but in the 1980s, Gene and Joan Gagliardi discovered the three middle tiers of fountain, standing without water in a private garden near Cheney University. The Gagliardis purchased this part of the fountain, restored it to working condition, and installed it at their Southdown Farm in East Bradford.
There it stayed, until the Friends of Marshall Square Park set out to find the original fountain. By this time, the Gagliardis had sold Southdown, but Joan Gagliardi prevailed on the new owners to donate these fountain sections to our group.
On May 15, 2012, we traveled to Southdown and returned this long-lost central part of the fountain to Marshall Square Park.
Restoration of the Fountain
After the three tiers were recovered, the Friends of Marshall Square Park began to draw up plans to fix up the tiers and remnants of the fountain in the park and restore it to its original beauty and back in its rightful place.
The organization worked incredibly hard raising money for the project, all through fundraisers and donations, without the borough paying a dime, to pay for the restoration.
On June 18, 2015, FMSP announced a donation of $45,000 from Pat Loew, widow of the developer and philanthropist Jack Loew, making her the park’s new benefactor, and she chose to name the fountain in memory of her late husband. With this donation, the restoration of the fountain began.
The restoration of the fountain to the park united the community behind the project and generated enthusiasm and pride. All funds raised to complete the fountain restoration along with the restoration of the site around the fountain were private donations from the community. Neighbors worked together to recover the missing original cast iron fountain pieces from behind an old barn a few miles from town and throughout the process of fundraising, design and construction. Accurate and sensitive restoration of the original cast iron fountain pieces, along with restoration and preservation of original bricks and elements of the original fencing were priorities for the project. Long term care and maintenance considerations, along with sustainable materials selections and installation techniques were critical concerns during the project process.
The scope of work included the detailed restoration of the original 14’ high fountain and its bowls, stems and pieces along with the re-fabrication of several missing pieces. The 25’ d. Basin had to be leveled and re-constructed using reinforced masonry and new interior concrete finish, tile and lighting. The masonry support fountain pedestal was re-constructed and the cast iron fountain mounted into place. New mechanical, electrical and plumbing was installed and a new shed was built to house the fountain equipment. The fencing was reproduced and re-installed, increasing its overall height for safety. Acorn finials from the original iron fence were salvaged and reused on the new fence exactly as they had been in the original design. Detailed brick patterns, sections of original brick swales and a brick memorial shield detail were recorded and re-installed exactly as they had been originally. Commemorative benches were selected and installed around the fountain area perimeter. The bench sales helped to support the fund-raising efforts. Sections of the new granite coping around the basin of the fountain were engraved with donor names. Bronze plaques have been added in four locations on the fence for major donor recognition.
On July 14, 2016, the water was turned on and we tested the Marshall Square Park fountain for the first time. With all seven sprays performing, it was a glorious sight!
Re-Dedication of Fountain
The fountain Re-Dedication Ceremony took place on September 24, 2016. It was a wonderful event that was spent celebrating the many community members and businesses that helped us achieve our goal of the fountain restoration. The Re-Dedication event was attended by Borough of West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, State Representative Dan Truitt, and Senator Andrew Dinnamin.
Fountain Committee Members:
Anne Walters and Jeff Beitel (Co-chairs)
In addition, we had invaluable support from our FMSP treasurer, Linda Scott and our webmaster and Communications Secretary, Lane Randall.
A brief summary of our work that led to the fountain restoration:
- Detailed design and construction plans for the fountain area and surroundings were prepared by Jeffrey C. Beitel Architects in coordination with Anne F. Walters Company, Landscape Architects.
- John Milner and Associates contributed archeological work.
- Howell- Kline contributed surveying work.
- As part of the design process, we researched details, materials and construction options.
- Contractors were interviewed, bids were reviewed and evaluated and a construction budget took shape.
- Since not all of the pieces of the fountain were recovered, we were fortunate that Matt White and the team from Heritage Metalworks of Downingtown joined the team and were able to replace one new bowl and fabricate several smaller missing pieces.
- Bob Service, Tony Garofolo and Tom Kurt of Pebble Pools coordinated the complete re-construction process of the fountain basin and the mechanical installation and were our go-to guys through the installation process.
- Roman Fountains of Atlanta, Georgia assisted us with plans and specifications for the water works , new nozzles and lighting.
- Although the fence you see today is a reproduction that matches the original, Peter Way of Angelo’s Ironworks was able to save the original acorn finials and attach them to the new fence.
- Victor Leonhard of Leonhard Landscape Construction lifted the original brick paving, re-graded the surrounding area, restored the original brick patterns and swales as closely as possible to the original design.
- Ron Rosenberry installed the commemorative benches from Keystone Ridge that you see around the fountain.
Our goal was to return this piece of history to its original condition and present it to the Borough of West Chester and its citizens – as it was in its glory days.
- The fund raisers of the committee contacted neighbors and friends and spread the word about our project.
- Our webmaster kept the website and Facebook page up to date with progress reports, fundraising appeals and photos and videos of the entire process.
- The Friends of Marshall Square Park fundraising events supported the fountain project at every opportunity.
In addition to the return of the restored fountain, the Friends of Marshall Park agreed to set up an endowment to support the regular maintenance and care of the fountain in the future.
We are very proud of the fact that this has been an all-volunteer effort; all funds raised were from private citizens and 100 percent of the donations have gone directly to support the project. We are very grateful to all of our donors for making this day possible; the re-dedication of this beautiful fountain, returned to the Borough and citizens of West Chester – 60 years later.
Here is the list of people who were responsible for the design and construction of this amazing project. Each one of these people took a personal interest in bringing this fountain back to life – they put forth their talents, their time and their energy making personal donations to the project and without them, none of this would have been possible:
- Jeffrey C. Beitel, Architects with a special thank you to Brian Thomas.
- Anne F. Walters, Landscape Architects.
- Howell-Kline Surveying – Site survey
- Roman Fountains – Mechanical Design
- Heritage Metalworks – Historic Cast Iron Fountain Restoration
- Pebble Pools – Masonry Basin Reconstruction/Mechanical Installation
- Vickery Stone Company – Granite Coping Stones
- Angelo and Sons – Iron Fencing
- Battavio Plumbing – Water Service Connections
- Electrical Plus – Electrical Service Connections
- Ron Rosenberry – Carpentry
- William Zubaly – Painting
- Victor Leonhard Landscape Construction – Restoration of Brick Paving
- Alberici’s Brandywine Memorials – Granite Engraving
- Franklin Bronze Plaques – Bronze Fence Plaques
- Keystone Ridge Designs – Commemorative Benches
- Eastern Horticultural Services – Landscaping
- Paragon Pool Service – Fountain Maintenance
- Ronnie Ballasonne
- Kirby Tirk
- Eli Kahn
Jack Loew Memorial Fountain Donors
Primary Benefactor Tier
Fountain Naming Rights / Central Plaque on Fence
Patricia Burton Loew
Darlington, Hoopes, and Townsend Tier
Three Smaller Plaques on Fence
Kirby Tirk & Veronica Balassone
[One Plaque Left]
Granite Coping Stones (still available!)
HUMPHRY MARSHALL TIER
2” Inscribed Name on Granite Coping Stone (1 Line)
Jeff Beitel & Miriam Coleman
J. Christopher & Celia Lang
Adam & Kelly Loew
Anthony & Kim Stancato
Anne & Greg Walters
Jerry & Judy Wisneski
JOHN BARTRUM TIER
Inscribed Name on Shared Granite Coping Stone (2 Lines)
Victor & Terri Abdala
Friends of West Chester Parks & Recreation
Leonard & Deborah Reinhart
Stancato & Abdala Companies
Inscribed Name on Shared Granite Coping Stone (4 Lines)
Joseph & Sarah Finnaren III
Stephen & Heather Gallo
Kim Kelton and Denise Yonkoski
Tom & Connie McEvoy
Pat & Susan Moran
Cliff Morgan & Robin Morgan
Amanda Loew Rocco
Jim Salvas & Lane Randall
William & Linda Scott
Rose Stancato & Jerry Carpenter
Allan & Nancy Steenhusen
West Chester Downtown Foundation
Gordon & Betsy Wooodrow
Park Benches (still available!)
10 x 5″ Inscribed Bronze Plaque
John Cigler & Patrick McCoy
Vivian and Oscar Lasko
Eric & Lee Miller
Lane Randall & Jim Salvas
Mike South & Robin DeRogatis