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'Lost Piece of History' Returning to College Hill

College Hill Neighborhood Association working on bringing back Nevin Park fountain.

If you went back in time 100 years and visited Nevin Park in Easton's College Hill, you'd be welcomed by an ornate fountain.

If you returned 20 years later, you'd find it gone. In the first half of the 20th century, the fountain went on a sad journey from storage to scrap.

And while it will never be able to replace what's no longer there, the College Hill Neighborhood Association says it's time for the Park to have a new fountain.

“It was such a beautiful fountain," said Hubert Etchison of the CHNA. “We basically lost a piece of history that was there.”

So far, the group has raised just under $22,000 of the $205,000 it says it will need to build a new fountain.

Last week, Easton City Council gave its support to the project, and has pledged $75,000. Now, the CHNA has begun reaching out to corporations like Air Products in hopes of getting grant money.

A new fountain by itself will cost $37,500. The rest of the money will pay for things such as an out building for the mechanical components of the fountain, concrete slabs, a seating area, a historical marker, and on-going maintenance, Etchison said.

Etchison said the group wants to build a new fountain because the park is getting more use, thanks to programs like Movies in the Park and National Night Out, combined with an influx of younger families to College Hill.

And they're not fans of the "beehive," the stone structure that replaced the fountain in the 1950s.

The fountain was installed in Nevin Park in 1899, after spending a few decades in Centre Square.

In the 1920s, Etchinson said, the city removed it with plans to refurbish it. Then the Great Depression came, and fountain restorations weren't part of the city budget anymore.

When World War II broke out, the fountain was sold for scrap and melted down.

“We would have loved it if it was sitting in somebody’s dusty barn, 'Oh look, what’s this,'" Etchinson said.

The beehive went up sometime in the 1950s, and for a time, functioned as a fountain, he said. It stopped working in the 1970s, and has sat there ever since.

The beehive's ugliness/beauty seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

"It has been there since I was little, and now my son climbs it. I would be sad if anything was done to it," reader Tatham Laskey-Mecchi wrote on our Facebook page.

"It's ugly, the old iron fountain was beautiful, replace this with something more 'period' to the park," another reader, Rex McCoy, responded.

It would cost anywhere from $250,000 to $800,000 to replicate the old fountain, Etchison said.

If they went that route, "We could have garden tours until here until the cows come home and maybe our great-grandchildren will be able to put the fountain up," he said.

Instead, the CHNA is opting for building a fountain modeled after one in Marietta, GA.

The group would also like to work to have the Karl Stirner Arts Trail extended so it circles the park. That project would be funded by "separate collaborative effort between the CHNA and the city," Etchison said.

It's also going to reach out to Lafayette College to work on other restoration projects at the park.

But that's part of a separate project. Etchison said the CHNA is being careful not to bite off more than it can chew.

“We sort of built it focusing on the hardest part first," he said. “If everything went horribly, we could at least get the fountain in.”

Bob Rabinsky May 13, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Oh my God. I cant beleive what I just read. With all our financial problems in this city it approved $17,000 thats $17,000 toward a fountain that may cost a quarter of a million to build???? I thought they were crazy to support the ambassadors but this? We need to stop this foolish spending.
Kyle M. Jones May 13, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Interesting. As for the old fountain, it was something to behold. The price for its recreation might sound ridiculous, but it was actually a massive, ornate thing. I'll have to write up a blog post on it soon, seeing as it's timely.
kicks on 4th May 14, 2013 at 12:25 AM
the Express story makes mention of grant money from Karl Stirner Arts Trail money/funding not really out of the "city" money and not money connect to the ambassadors (they are funded differently as well) - to lump it all together and say it as you did is not accurate
Bob Rabinsky May 14, 2013 at 02:10 AM
The story states the city is supporting the project. the reference to the Karal sterner was about expanding the arts trail to that area not providing money. And yes part of the ambassadores money comes from yours and my tax.
Amend May 14, 2013 at 12:59 PM
@Bob- your statement regarding the ambassadors is incorrect. While the city did fund the program for the last two years, the ambassadors are now being funded thru the increased parking revenue that goes into the general fund, not via taxes. And it's the "Karl Stirner Arts Trail".
Donald Young May 19, 2013 at 04:01 PM
May we please have photos of the original Nevin Park/Centre Square fountain alongside of the currently proposed Marietta-like fountain?

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