Town square landmark is under reconstruction.
For some, a familiar friend is missing from St. John. An open space in the middle of the town square marks the location of the Moseley Memorial Fountain that stood there for 106 years. The fountain has been taken down and the bowl around the fountain removed for some much needed repairs.
During an April 16 city council meeting, Jeff Williamson, St. John City Superintendent, said the old plaster on the bowl around the base of the fountain had been leaking for a long, long time. It had been repaired with band-aid after band-aid after band-aid but it was doing no good. When work was started to repair the bowl, the old plaster was chipped away and big chunks, bigger than expected, were coming off the bowl, said Williamson during the video of the meeting.
The concrete is saturated on the inside and there are cracks big enough to put a notebook through them. Research was begun to determine what it would take to fix the bowl. One solution considered was to put in a pre-manufactured bowl around the fountain that would look almost identical to the original.
There are problems with that plan. The only place they could find a bowl like the original is in Georgia and the lead time is about six weeks. At a cost of $225 per linear foot, the new bowl would cost about $13,000 and that doesn’t include installation or anything else.
A suggestion has been made to put a liner on the bottom of the bowl and that would take care of the leaking problem.
The fountain has been blasted and painted several times over its 106 years. Now, Williamson wants to take the fountain to a person in Great Bend where it will be blasted and a powder coat will be applied for about $1,000. It will have a ceramic look from now on and shouldn’t have any rust issues, Williamson said.
But the fountain is the least of their worries until they decide what to do with the over 100 year old concrete that makes up the bowl.
The fountain has withstood snow, rain storms, wind and gloom of night but now it needs some attention, said David Cutright, news director for SSC TV3, who researched the history of the fountain for a video production.
The fountain was taken down using a big forklift that used its two big prongs to remove it from its site. It is still in St. John and will have some work done to it before it is taken for refinishing. Decisions still have to be made on how best to solve the bowl issue.
The result will be in the restoration of a city landmark that got its start over 107 years ago.
The fountain was a project of the Hesperian Club, a woman’s organization, that was working hard in 1912 to beautify the park. They raised money and installed lights, walkways, a fence, gates and the fountain, Cutright said.
Before the fountain, a bandstand occupied the center of the park. It was very small and a band couldn’t fit in it. The Hesperian Club decided the bandstand had to go and decided to replace it with a fountain.
In his research, Cutright learned that Judge Thomas Moseley liked to tend the flowers in the park as a personal project for the citizens of St. John to enjoy. He could also enjoy the view of the park from his second story office window on the south side of the square, Cutright said.
Fundraising for the fountain was already underway when Mosley died on Sept. 5, 1912. Shortly after his passing, the Hesperian Club decided name it after him as the Moseley Memorial Fountain.
The fountain was officially unveiled on Friday, Oct. 17, 1913. Although it is the Moseley Memorial Fountain, there is no plaque of any kind on the site that identifies the name of the fountain.
Cutright said he plans on making sure there is a plaque of some kind when the fountain is re-established. Exactly when that will be is unknown at this time.
Although the center of the square is empty now, the city has the opportunity to help restore the fountain to its rightful place as a piece of St. John history.
“Now, 106 years later, we have the responsibility and privilege to make ready our singular iconic landmark for its next 100 years,” Cutright said.