In February, we took an in-depth look at the history of Fort Nelson and the small parcel of land at Seventh Street and West Main Street that is today Fort Nelson Park. During that investigation, we discussed the old fountain, which was removed one year ago this month.
As we noted then, the Fort Nelson Park is no ordinary fountain: it’s one of several fountains that adorned the Southern Exposition in the 1880s and before that served as a landscape bauble for the Robinson-DuPont Mansion in Old Louisville:
The cast-iron fountain was forged in the 1870s for a sprawling estate south of the city built by Reverend Stuart Robinson, and later occupied by the DuPonts. In 1883, the land was developed into the Southern Exposition, where fountains anchored four corners of the Victorian world’s fair. After the fair, the Exposition grounds became St. James Court and Central Park.
Later, two of the fountains were relocated to the old courthouse, now Metro Hall, on Jefferson Street. A 1925 photograph of the courthouse shows the fountain on the corner of Jefferson Street and Sixth Street. At some point in the 20th century, the county decided to remove the fountains entirely from the courthouse and one was lost to the scrap yard, according to architect and former urban planner Charles Cash. He told Broken Sidewalk the other was rescued by Carol Swanson, who displayed the fountain in her garden on Upper River Road, where it resided until being relocated to Fort Nelson Park in the early 90s. “The city restored it as the centerpiece of the garden,” Cash said. “The cast-iron fountain fit well with the cast-iron district.”
In February, Jessica Wethington, Public Information Specialist at Metro Louisville Planning & Design Services, told us that “the fountain is currently stored safely at Seventh Street and Industry Road until repairs can be made.” A tipster spotted the fountain sitting just where Wethington described and sent in the above photo.
We checked in with Wethington to get the latest on the fountain. “The fountain is [still] in storage,” she said. “The restoration and relocation of the fountain is likely to be something that will be discussed by the community conversations building committee.”
She was referring to a meeting the city announced in September to be led by Historic Preservation Officer Cynthia Johnson. The meeting was arranged in response to community outcry over placing the old Water Company Headquarters Building‘s facade in storage following a pending demolition to make way for the Omni Hotel & Residences.
No official date has been set for the meeting, but Wethington said the city is aiming for sometime in mid-November. Those interested in participating in the work group should contact Johnson at 502-574-2868 or Cynthia.Johnson@louisvilleky.
Meanwhile at Fort Nelson Park, it sounds like a Japanese maple tree planted in the fountain’s place last October will have time to mature if the fountain is, in fact, to be relocated. “The group will discuss budget, restoration, and relocation of the fountain,” Wethington said. “However, this will not be on the agenda for the initial meeting.”
While a plan is finalized for the fountain and until restoration can begin, how about we at least move the 145-year-old, cast-iron fountain out of the elements where it currently sits, rusting.