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Residents hope to recreate historic fountain

Chris Patterson
The Gazette

The Emmitsburg Area Historical Society is working to install a reproduction of the town's old fountain in time for a July dedication -- 120 years after the original was dedicated in the center of the town square.

On Monday, society president Mike Hillman and Luke Robinson, a manufacturer of iron reproductions, met in Frederick to discuss the possibilities.

Standing next to an old iron fountain at the corner of 7th and North Market streets in the city, the two compared the fountain's design with the fountain that used to be located in Emmitsburg. Both fountains were apparently built from the same mold.

With the breeze blowing spray from the elegant old fountain across the park, the two men asked each other questions, took pictures of the fountain and contemplated the possibilities.

Robinson, the son of the owner of Robinson Iron in Alexander City, Ala., recently contacted Hillman, having seen the history of the Emmitsburg fountain on Hillman's Web site www.emmitsburg.net. Robinson's grandfather had purchased some of the old molds used to make the fountain. Robinson said his company can reproduce most of the sections of the fountain from molds and can create a pattern for any missing pieces they don't have.

At their meeting it became clear that Robinson's company has most, if not all, of the components to make a reproduction. That led Hillman to ask Robinson to prepare an estimate of the cost to create one.

The Frederick fountain is probably about 1,800 pounds of detailed iron design, he said, and a similar new fountain could cost as much as $75,000. The cost will depend greatly on whether his company has all of the molds for the base that catches the water, he said.

Hillman and the Historical Society members have been researching the history of the fountain for some time, with the hope of eventually finding the old one.

Hillman said the reason is that the fountain -- originally installed in 1885, and destroyed in 1927 -- was important to the culture of the town.

In 1927, the four-tier fountain was hit head-on by a Taneytown driver. Already damaged by other collisions, the fountain did not survive the crash.

The remains of the fountain were probably melted down during the war, just as ties for the old Emmitsburg railroad were melted down, Hillman said.

Hillman and fellow historian Louie O'Donoghue prepared a detailed history of the fountain that can be found on www.emmitsburg.net

The story reveals the work put into the establishment of the original fountain. A Fountain Appreciation Committee presided over by Samuel Motter oversaw work on the fountain that began in September 1884. On the 100th anniversary of the town's founding -- July 3, 1885 -- the fountain was dedicated.

E. G. Smyser of York, Pa. was the fountain's manufacturer. The fountain sections were made from molds that were also used for fountains in the City of Frederick -- in front of City Hall and at the corner of North Market and 7th streets.

The difference between the fountains, according to photos of the old Emmitsburg fountain, is height.

The similarity between Frederick's fountain and Emmitsburg's fountain led to rumors that the fountain at North Market was really the Emmitsburg fountain, but Hillman said it is clear from the markings that it cannot be.

And there have been other stories about what happened to the fountain.

Even as recently as this year, a plantar that some thought was a piece of the old fountain was installed outside the town's community center with a plaque identifying it as such.

Hillman and the society's research has shown that is not the case, he said.

Now, feeling certain the fountain most likely no longer exists, the society plans to work to bring it back in all its glory.

Hillman plans for the Historical Society to create a committee filled with members of the community that will be responsible for fund-raising for the fountain. He said he has already approached a several people in different walks of life in the community and everyone supported the idea.

He said he hopes to get the committee going as soon as possible with O'Donoghue taking the helm, which is a good thing because Robinson plans to have an estimate to Hillman in another week or so.

As to where the fountain will go - the town square or in front of the town hall - Hillman said he is "not wedded" to one location or the other and will leave that decision to the committee.

Anyone interested in working with the Historical Society on bringing a replica of the old town fountain to the town should contact Hillman at michael@emmitsburg.net or 301-477-2220 or Louie O'Donoghue at 301-682-4222.