Safe home sought for aged town fountain NORTHWEST--Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

December 17, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

To Julia Cairns, it seems that New Windsor's town fountain has always been a fixture at the corner of High and Main streets. It was something the town could call its own.

"That's where it has been all my life," said Mrs. Cairns, a member of the town's Heritage Committee and unofficial New Windsor historian.

"I have a picture of me near that fountain when I was very small," she said.

"It's just always been there to run up to."

Unfortunately, trucks also ran up on the curb near the fountain, causing it to spill more than a few drops of water and forcing the town council to consider relocating it to the grassy lot at the corner of Routes 31 and 75, where the town Christmas tree stands.

"The matter is far from settled yet, but everyone agrees it should sit somewhere where it won't get hit by trucks," said James C. Carlisle, the town mayor.

"It's a great old fountain, and I'd like to see it go back up. But I want to see it in a safe place."

Protection from large vehicles was not a problem in 1908, when town resident and civic organizer Margaret Erhard willed the town money to construct the fountain.

The fountain replaced a wooden pump that had operated in the same location since shortly after the town's founding in 1790 but had deteriorated over the years, Ms. Cairns said.

Two years later, the town erected the 12-foot, three-tiered fountain, where it wasn't strange to see a man take a drink, water his horse and let his dog get a sip at the same time.

The tractor-trailer accident earlier this year in which the fountain was knocked over was one blow too many for the 82-year-old structure, according to the welder who repaired it.

And while the Heritage Committee knows that another accident would send the antique into permanent retirement, President Micki Smith said it is important to keep the fountain at its original site.

"There has been something on that corner almost since the town started, and, as a committee, we are, of course, concerned that the historic accuracy of the town be preserved," Ms. Smith said.

"We'd like to see this fountain's location be at least reasonably historically accurate," she said. "We are very concerned about keeping the original portion of town as accurate as possible."

While council members insist that a site has not been selected, last month's town newsletter said that a "park-like area will be developed with the tree and the fountain as focal points."

It would be set up at the Route 75-Route 31 intersection when the state roads department widens the corner.

"The fountain is ready to go up, whenever we decide a place for it," said Councilwoman Rebecca H. Harman.

"We've been waiting to see what the state is going to do with that corner, and I've been told they are waiting for the power company to take down the poles."

An informal survey taken by the Heritage Committee showed that the majority of people who were asked wanted to keep the fountain on High Street. But only 105 residents were asked, making the survey, according to Ms. Harman, "not comprehensive and complete."

"We just went around one time, and those who were home got asked and those who were not," said Ms. Smith. "It was just an informal questioning."

A 90-year-old man who has lived just out of town for 30 years suggested that the trucks be rerouted instead of having the fountain moved.

"I remember eating at Grimes' restaurant on that corner and looking out to see that fountain," said the man, who asked to remain anonymous. "Maybe they should think about those trucks running all through town."

"It ought to be back where it was," he said. "That's where it belongs."

Marie Grimes, Councilman Kenneth Grimes' wife, said she and her husband disagree.

"If you put it back there, it's going to be knocked down again," said Mrs. Grimes. "There is no reason why it should go back where it was. They should put it at [routes] 75 and 31."

"If it were feasible, I'd like to see it [at the original site] because it has always been there. But if it is not practical, I understand," said Mrs. Cairns, who owns and operates Box wood Antiques, just down the street from the fountain's traditional site.

And as the decision bounces from one side to the other, the fountain, restored from its last upset, lies in New Windsor resident Jack Coe's plumbing shop, D. P. Smelser and Sons Inc. on High Street.

Mrs. Cairns said it is still a beautiful sight to see, "even if it is lying on its back."

"I just know a lot of people come back to town and look for the fountain on that corner, and they say, 'Where is it?' " she said. "And they'll wonder why it's not there."

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