A city park's fountain of youth

Revival: Patterson Park turns on its 1800s marble bubbler, its latest structure to be restored.

April 26, 2004|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Amid drum rolls, waving streamers and cheers, Patterson Park's 19th-century fountain bubbled back to life yesterday after decades of sitting silent on the hill at Lombard Street.

Nearly 500 people came to the park to see the latest project to be completed in the city's $3 million master plan for Patterson Park. In the past two years, the 60-foot-tall pagoda and the boat lake were restored and reopened as part of the plan adopted in 1998.

"This fountain was [created] as a community gathering place - a place for people to show off their hats and hang out. That's what we want to have happen again," said Kini Collins of Friends of Patterson Park, the nonprofit group that has brought together city and foundation funds to lead the park's renaissance.

To set the fountain's spray bubbling again, the leaking basin was removed, plumbing was upgraded and the marble was cleaned to restore its white gleam, said Timothy Almaguer, Friends of Patterson Park's project coordinator.

Design work for the $360,000 fountain project began in 2002.

Almaguer said the group plans to use the fountain as a centerpiece for community programs, including concerts, Audubon workshops and chess games.

"If you look at some of the other park systems in the United States that have turned around, it's all been based on community input," Almaguer said. "The best designers are the people who will use it."

He said the park is being used more, noting that in the past two years 15,000 people have visited the pagoda.

"We sort of think the turning on of the water today is a metaphor for turning on the renewal of life in Patterson Park and this community," said Thomas Stoner, president of TKF Foundation, a primary contributor.

"It's really great, something that's needed. ... It's good to see them fishing in the boat lake again," said Tom Hamlin of Dundalk.

As Hamlin stood on the fourth floor of the pagoda, he recalled growing up on Montford Avenue and joining children from the surrounding neighborhoods to play ball, swim or admire the goldfish that swam in the fountain.

"On a Saturday or Sunday they had thousands of people in this park," Hamlin said. "They used to have Easter egg hunts when I was young."

The park dates to 1827, when William Patterson, an Irish immigrant who made his fortune in shipping and real estate, donated 6 acres for a public walk, according to the Friends of Patterson Park.

Hampstead Hill, home of the fountain and pagoda, was the site an American stand during the War of 1812, and later, a Union military encampment.

Shortly after the Civil War, Almaguer said, George A. Frederick - the architect who designed City Hall - created the fountain. Historical photos, Almaguer said, show a park crowded with people, and the hillside remained popular until the 1960s, when families began migrating to the suburbs.

Marie Joost of Towson and her daughter, Katie, marveled at the changes in the park. This was not a place Joost visited or brought her daughter to 20 years ago. Now, she said, she is impressed by the community garden and other amenities.

"The city's coming back and it's great," said Katie Joost, who lives in Charles Village.

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