Restoration begins for Main Street fountain

After months of planning, the restoration of the Main Street fountain commenced this fall. The fountain has an estimated date of summer 2017 for being fully restored, according to Mayor of the Village of Geneseo Richard Hatheway. “It looks as though by the summer we should be in a position to put all the pieces back together and put the fountain back in place,” Hatheway said.

Plans to repair the fountain began the day of the accident when Hatheway reached out to Moorland Studios, a New Jersey-based restoration company that replaced the fountain’s lantern in 2010. They have been, “intimately involved in the project from the get-go,” according to Hatheway.

“[Moorland Studios is] a world-class restoration team,” associate professor and chair of sociology Kurt Cylke said. “They specialize in historic preservation.”

The fountain—first built in the late 1880s—is a Geneseo landmark and is part of the reason Geneseo is considered a National Historic Landmark District. Richard Morris Hunt, who also devised the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, designed it.

Much of the time between the accident and now has been spent assessing the extent of the damage and determining where to find the stone to repair and replace various parts. The town also had to decide whether to keep and repair the historic fountain despite its inability to hold water, or to replace it with a functioning replica fountain.

“From a historic preservation point of view, the ideal thing to do would be never to replace anything,” Cylke said. “Unfortunately, it is so badly damaged that … the basin will never hold water again. You need to weigh functionality against authenticity.”

The town concluded that the five parts that compromise the fountain—the basin, the column, the metals and pipes, the bear and the “capital,” which is the stone that the bear sits on—will be replaced or repaired. The basin and the capital stone were both broken beyond repair, while the bear and column will be touched up.

The challenge thus far has been finding exact replicas of the granite and brownstone of which the fountain is comprised. Last week on a trip to Connecticut, Mooreland Studios located an exact match for the granite basin. The week prior, the company traveled to Albany to find the brownstone needed for the capital stone.

“We were happy the granite could be replicated,” Hatheway said. “It looks like a really good match.”

Moorland Studios has been working diligently to find the appropriate materials, according to Cylke.

“They have been painstaking in their research,” Cylke said. “They want it to be as close to the original as possible, and they nailed it.”

The new fountain will be an exact replica of the 1888 original, thanks to a 3D image scan made in 2008, according to Cylke. The town was able to purchase this 3D image after a fundraiser was held to replace the plastic lantern with a replica of the original.

After the lantern was repaired, there was over $20,000 remaining due to Geneseo alumni’s significant donation, Cylke said. The rest of the donations went to this 3D image, which was completed so that if the fountain were damaged again, a record of its exact dimensions would be available.

“If they had not contributed to the project, we would not have the 3D scans now that we need to reproduce it,” Cylke said. “It really is a community effort.”