A cast-iron fountain has been in Portland’s Lincoln Park ever since it was unloaded from a steamship from Paris in 1871 and placed on its granite pedestal. But on Tuesday morning, crews will remove the piece of art so it can be restored to its original luster.

“It’s one of the treasures of Portland – that’s why we felt it had to be done now,” said West End resident Frank Reilly, the self-described “chief spear carrier” of the Friends of Lincoln Park, a nonprofit group that is partnering with the city to raise money to restore the fountain and park. “I think everyone is going to be thrilled when they see this treasured landmark restored completely.”

Reilly said that when the fountain returns in the spring it will be taller – with the addition of a top spire similar to an original spire that went missing – and city workers will have the ability to control the fountain spray, either having it burst in multiple streams or slowing it to a trickle.

“If there’s a celebration in the park, we want the full spray,” Reilly said.

The project is the first phase of an effort to restore all of Lincoln Park – the city’s first public park. Efforts to create Lincoln Park started four days after the Great Fire of 1866, which began on the western waterfront and destroyed one third of the city’s downtown commercial district before burning itself out on the slopes of Munjoy Hill.

The 2½-acre parcel bordered by Congress, Franklin, Federal and Pearl streets was acquired as a firebreak to prevent future fires from wiping out the city. City officials originally named it “Phoenix Square” on Jan. 7, 1867, before renaming it two weeks later as Lincoln Park, in honor of the president who had been assassinated nearly two years earlier.

The fountain was made by the Val d’Osne foundry in Paris. It features four child-like figures around its base: one kneeling and gently tending to a nest of four small birds and others arranged around the fountain shaft, decorated in wheat.

Jonathan Taggart says that after he removes rust and paint, then applies a new finish, Lincoln Park will have a deep-green fountain that will look as good as can be expected for a 145-year-old piece of iron.

Jonathan Taggart says that after he removes rust and paint, then applies a new finish, Lincoln Park will have a deep-green fountain that will look as good as can be expected for a 145-year-old piece of iron. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The fountain was installed one year after the city finished laying 17 miles of waterlines to Sebago Lake. It was originally placed in the middle of the park, with the bench-lined pathways from six entrance leading toward it. Today, however, the fountain appears to be placed more to the east – a side effect of the widening of Franklin Street, which claimed a quarter of the park.

The fountain remained operational for more than century. It was turned off in 1976 after children cut their feet on broken glass while wading in the pool, according to the Portland Evening Express. The fountain was restored and turned on again in 1986, just as the Old Port was beginning to redevelop into an attractive place to visit and conduct business.

The fountain, which is covered during the winter, has been restored over the years. While the top pieces have been previously removed, the fountain’s base and basin have been in place since 1871, according to the friends group.

“We’ve never had the opportunity to work on the inside of it,” said Jonathan Taggart, a restoration expert who will meticulously restore the fountain over the winter in his Georgetown workshop.

Taggart said he will dismantle the fountain, piece by piece, and use various chemical solutions to remove the rust and paint, before applying a new finish. The end result will be a glossy, deep-green fountain that will look as good as can be expected for a 145-year-old piece of iron.

The fountain will also be a little bit taller when it returns. That’s because Taggart managed to secure a replacement spire and birdbath that once adorned the top of the fountain.

The $130,000 restoration project is being funded by the friends group. The city of Portland has allocated $250,000 in the current Capital Improvement Plan to dig up and replace the park’s walkways next spring.

The friends group is looking to raise another $80,000 so it can upgrade the fountain’s plumbing at the same time the sidewalks are all dug up, Reilly said. Donations can be made at LoveLincolnPark.org.

The friends also hope to plant new American Elm trees, similar to those that once formed a protective canopy over the park, shielding it from the bustling city. Many of the original elms were lost to Dutch Elm disease and replaced with other species.

Reilly said the friends also want to add another 23 benches, which can be purchased and dedicated by businesses and residents for $5,000 each. The group has already added 13 benches. The group also plans to bring back the flower beds that once adorned the park, he said.

Also next spring, the city’s Parks Division will seek an additional $250,000 in CIP money to restore the wrought-iron fence around the park, according to Ethan Hipple, the city’s parks director.

“At the end of next summer, it’s going to be a beautiful place to go enjoy,” Hipple said.


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