New Windsor's town fountain stands in harm's way Latest truck accident has officials considering new spots for landmark

May 17, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

NEW WINDSOR -- For nearly two centuries, travelers and residents stopped at the corner of High and Main streets for a cool drink of water from the town fountain.

One more close encounter with an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, though, and the landmark may not make it to the 21st century.

"It's the truck traffic. We have 500 or more through here every day," said Mayor James C. Carlisle. "They are bigger and longer all the time, and many of them can't negotiate that corner."

About a month ago, a rig with out-of-state plates jumped the 22-inch curb and knocked the fountain from its base.

Plumbing contractor Jack Coe used a backhoe to move the damaged fountain to his shop on High Street. There, a welder spent several hours restoring it. The town will get a repair bill of more than $400.

"When you are preserving a little bit of history, you try harder than usual," said Robert DuVall, the welder. "This fountain would last forever, if left alone, but it's not going to take much more battering."

Many residents here are familiar with the fountain's history. Family albums contain pictures of the cast-iron lamppost and water fountain, bought in 1910 to replace a 100-year-old wooden pump.

The will of wealthy town resident Margaret Erhard, who died in 1908, left the town $2,700 to purchase a "modern water fountain and streetlight." The one-of-a-kind fountain, which also has a trough for horses and a small dish at its base for pets, has been a fixture at the crossroads ever since.

The mayor said he has received many calls from residents, who are eager for the fountain to be returned to the intersection from the plumbing shop.

"They don't understand how unsafe that corner is," he said.

So the Town Council is discussing relocating the historical treasure to safer ground.

"I'd hate to see it go back there [to the busy street corner]," said Councilwoman Rebecca H. Harman.

Town Clerk Richard Warehime also said he has had several calls and suggestions.

"Some people said to set it back about 5 more feet and build a cement abutment," he said.

Main Street resident Julia Cairns said nothing will stop the trucks, which hit the corner daily. It is only a matter of time before another one strikes the fountain, she said.

The town's historical preservation group, the Heritage Committee, "would like to see it in a historically significant place, close to the early part of town," said Micki Smith, president.

The state owns a vacant lot in just such a place -- at the corner of Main Street and Route 75. The State Highway Administration plans to widen that intersection, also beset with truck problems.

Once the widening project is completed, the council wants to make a park of the remaining land.

"We could plant a few trees, add a few benches and put the fountain there," said the mayor.

If the street repair money is not cut from the state's budget, Route 75 could be widened at the entry to town about July 1. Then, the fountain could get a new home in a small park, created just for it.

For now, though, the town treasure remains safely in storage at the plumbing shop.

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