St. Albans Rotarians save 128 Year Old Vermont Landmark
In 2014, the members of the Rotary Club of St. Albans, VT, proudly accepted the challenge to lead their community to restoring the Fountain in Taylor Park. In doing so, they understood there is a unique relationship between their Club, their Community, and the Fountain.
Governor John Smith (1758-1858) was one of St. Albans most prominent citizens of all times. At the time he established residence there, developed the system of railroads, and served as Governor of Vermont, there was a single St. Albans. It was St. Albans Village. It encompassed the area now known as St. Albans Town and St. Albans City. It was then, as St. Albans City is now, the County Seat.
The contributions of Governor Smith and his descendants are many. Of particular interest is:
-His grandson, Greg Smith1 (1892-1990) was a founding member of Rotary of St. Albans.
-It was the Smiths who gifted to their friends and neighbors the Fountain in St. Albans Village (Taylor) Park.
The Fountain in Taylor Park was given to St. Albans Village by the Smith Family. It was erected in the summer of 1887 and dedicated on October 9, 1887.
37 years later, On October 8, 1924, Greg Smith joined with Dr. Ralph Perry and others who accepted a Charter from Rotary International to form a Rotary Club in St. Albans.
A History of the Fountain 2 & 3
The Fountain in Taylor Park is a symbol of St. Albans like no other. It has graced the front of many publications. It was recognized by The Smithsonian Institute as the best remaining example of this type of fountain in the world.
To fully understand its significance, one must understand that Vermont in general and the St. Albans area in particular suffered tremendously during, and after, the Civil War (1861-1865). Many of their citizens were lost in battle. The economy suffered greatly. The War ended in 1865. 22 years later, in 1887, the area was just beginning to feel a new prosperity. More importantly, people were feeling good about themselves and they were feeling good about their community.
It was in that atmosphere that the fountain in Taylor Park was given to the Village of St Albans in 1887 by Gov J. Gregory Smith, founder of the Vermont Central Railroad. He had encouraged the local citizenry to improve Taylor Park and promised to donate the fountain. The citizenry and the Village government raised $2,300 to create paths and lawn in the Park with the fountain as a crowning feature. On October 10, 1887, Gov Smith dedicated the fountain with a letter in which he said, “It should be the desire of every citizen, as is certainly mine, to see our village restored to its pristine prosperity and healthful growth. This can be accomplished by an entire and perfect unity of purpose and harmony of action…”.
The fountain was built by the JW Fiske Company of New York at a cost of $4,000, at a time when the entire Village budget was $18,500. The fountain is nearly 26 ft in height and the pool underneath is 40 feet in diameter, edged with granite. The statuary was made of a zinc alloy, which was common at the time of manufacture. There are four Maidens, three Cherubs, and a “Water Nymph” that adorns the top. The structure and basins are cast iron. The fountain is only one of seven similar fountains left in existence and is featured on the cover of Smithsonian curator Carol Grissom’s book “Zinc Sculpture in America”.
Over its 128 years there have been a number of small restoration projects that allowed the fountain to operate in one manner or another. None were extensive enough to last. Age finally got the better of these fine Maidens. It was clear that while the center columns and the basins could be saved, time had caught up with the statuary. A number of groups and the City itself sought answers. The Fountain was just too decrepit to repair. Cost estimates for a full restoration were $300,000+. For a community of under 7,000 residents, the numbers were daunting. Those who cared most about this treasure despaired.
In January of 2014, leaders of the St. Albans Rotary Club discussed the dilemma. As the community’s leading civic organization most felt “if not us, then who”. Rotary has taken on a number of ambitious projects over the years but none as big as this. The price and the logistics were daunting. The idea was discussed by the whole club and enthusiastically supported. The fountain would be saved!
The fountain was disassembled in the fall of 2014 and sent to Robinson Iron Works in Alabama to be rebuilt. Because zinc is no longer used in casting, the statuary were recast in aluminum. The pond and walkway around the fountain were also refurbished.
About Rotary of St. Albans
In the early years, Rotary met at The Tavern at The Jesse Weldon Inn. The Jesse Weldon was a landmark Inn. It was located on the corner of Maiden Lane and Bank Street. It burned in 1946. It was one of the locations at which Confederate Soldiers lodged in the days leading up to the St. Albans Raid.
Rotary has made many contributions to our community. Most notable, perhaps are:
-The St. Albans Rotary Ski Bus has taken children to area ski resorts every winter since 1957. Over 50,000 individual ski trips have been enjoyed.
-The St. Albans Rotary Home and Recreation EXPO has provided a boost for area businesses and a passage to spring for our residents for 22 years.
-The St. Albans Rotary Health Path at Collins Perley is a 1.5 mile wellness path that is always open to provide an enjoyable place for a walk or run.
-The St. Albans Rotary expansion project at Hard’ack / Aldis Hill included the purchase of 60 acres of land. This purchase provided additional space for youth and community sports fields, cross country running and skiing, and conservation.
Rotarians meet each week for fellowship and service. They are all committed to working with Rotary International to make this a better world. They are dedicated and invested in making the St. Albans area a better place for all. Their membership is open to men and women who are recognized for their leadership and dedicated to community service.
About Rotary International 4
Rotary’s 1.2 million-member organization started with the vision of one man - a Vermonter - Paul P. Harris. Paul Harris grew up in Vermont. After graduating from College he became an attorney in Chicago where, on February 23 of 1905, he formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago. It began as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.
The most visible project Rotary International has undertaken is its world-wide effort to eradicate polio. This enormous undertaking has required great funding, scientific achievement, and logistical execution. Even through the difficulties inherent in inoculating millions of children in countries experiencing famines, wars, and cultural challenges, they are close to reaching that goal.
Paul Harris said
“WHATEVER ROTARY MAY MEAN TO US, TO THE WORLD IT WILL BE KNOWN BY THE RESULTS IT ACHIEVES.”
Governor John Gregory Smith said 3
In a letter to the Board of Trustees of the Village of St. Albans dated October 10, 1887:
“In making this presentation I have no conditions to impose, as I am sure none are needed to secure such care and attention as may be required to preserve it, and in its preservation to insure such enjoyment as it may afford the citizens.”
The Trustees of the Village of St. Albans said 3
In reply to the above from and to Governor Smith dated October 14, 1887:
“In behalf of the Village of St. Albans we hereby accept the munificent donation so tendered, and beg to assure you that immediate steps will be taken by us for its care and preservation to the end that it may for many years fulfill the beneficent intentions of the donor.”
The Fountain Returns
Pieces of the refurbished fountain will return to St. Albans on Thursday, October 1. They will be reset by Robinson Ironworks on Thursday and Friday under the watchful eye of Rotarian Peter Garceau, PE. Garceau, a partner in Cross Consulting Engineers, has volunteered countless hours to insure each detail of this project could be perfectly executed.
As in 1887, the timing of this gift is significant. Downtown St. Albans had suffered a fate similar to so many downtowns throughout the world. Development outside of the center of the City had left many store-fronts empty and the area looking tired. Downtown St. Albans has undergone an incredible transformation over the past four years. Under the inspirational leadership of Mayor Liz Gamache and the St. Albans City Council and with precision execution from Rotarian and City Manager Dominic Cloud, a street-scape project has been transformational. All store fronts are full. People once again feel proud of their downtown and their community.
You Are Invited
We invite the people of St. Albans and the friends of our area to join with us when the fountain returns. We invite everyone to celebrate it as a symbol of the beauty and greatness of our area and our people. We invite one and all to help the world to better know us by our commitment to saving that which is central to our heritage… the Fountain in Taylor Park.
On Saturday, October 3 from 12 Noon until 2:00 PM Rotary of St. Albans will host a community celebration in Taylor Park. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin will be on hand to join St Albans Mayor Liz Gamache, and Rotary Fountain Chairman Tom Gallagher to ”flip the switch” to start the fountain flowing at 12:30. Hot dogs and ice cream will be served. Large crowds are expected for this long anticipated free event.
A private reception for those who made contributions to the Fountain will be held Saturday night.
1 Greg Smith was son of E. C. Smith (also a VT Governor) and Grandson of Governor John Gregory Smith
2 From notes by Jeff Young
3 From The Fountain On The Park by Donald J. Miner
4 From Rotary International Web Site
Interested in more information on St. Albans, VT, USA and the Civil War. Research the St. Albans Raid to learn about the Northernmost land battle of the Civil War that occurred in St. Albans, Just 10 miles from the Canadian border.