ashland.news
July 21, 2024

Parks foundation raises more than half of Butler-Perozzi Fountain restoration project cost

Lithia Park's historic fountain and environs will be restored when the Ashland Parks Foundation reaches its fundraising goal of $800,000 for the project.
August 14, 2023

Ashland Parks Foundation hopes to raise $800,000 to restore and preserve the Lithia Park landmark

By Jim Flint for Ashland.news

In 1915 at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, Ashland civic leaders Gwin Butler and Domingo Perozzi purchased a large marble fountain created by noted Florentine sculptor Antonio Frilli and donated it to the city of Ashland.

Today, the fountain and its environs in Lithia Park are in need of some TLC.

To that end, the Ashland Parks Foundation launched a campaign on July 4 to raise $800,000 to restore and preserve the park’s centerpiece. Money raised will be used to repair the fountain, refurbish the site on which it sits, and establish a maintenance fund to preserve the fountain in perpetuity.

A historic postcard shows vehicles lining “Park Road” (now Winburn Way) through Lithia Park. Kramer Postcard Collection

To date, the foundation has raised 54% of its goal, hoping to secure the balance through community donations by Dec. 31. Persons interested in contributing to the project can learn more at AshlandParksFoundation.org.

“The fountain is a beautiful example of functional artwork and holds a significant position in the story of Ashland,” said Mike Gardiner, president of the foundation and a former Ashland Parks & Recreation commissioner.

The budget of $800,000 includes $600,000 for the estimated cost of the project, $150,000 for a maintenance reserve, and $50,000 to cover any cost over-runs — which, if not needed, can go into the maintenance fund.

Restoration will include repairs to the fountain and its pedestal, new plumbing, new electrical, and work on the stairway and terrace that are in disrepair.

“The stairway has a cement base with a stucco covering,” Gardiner said. “Stucco has broken off in places and the stairs are uneven in height.”

The foundation, which supports improvements in all Ashland parks, kick-started the fountain restoration fund drive with a donation of $225,000, consisting, in part, of funds donated from the trust of an Ashland man who died about a decade ago. That specific-use donation was earmarked for Lithia Park.

“We also received a very generous donation of $200,000 from an Ashland couple who prefer to remain anonymous,” Gardiner said.

The fountain’s purchasers were active in the civic and business life of the community.

The Lithia Park fountain is shown here not long after it was installed more than 100 years ago after its purchase and donation to the city of Ashland by two civic leaders.

Butler was a county commissioner for four years and served a term as mayor of Ashland.

Perozzi founded Ashland Creamery in 1896 and donated land to the community — three acres for park use and 40 acres leading to the construction of the campus for a new college in Ashland, now known as Southern Oregon University.

The fountain had restoration work done in 1987 by sculptor Jeffrey Bernard, commissioned by former Parks Planning Director John Fregonese. Bernard had studied in Italy and was able to obtain some Flower of Peach marble for the project. He also refurbished the original four gargoyles and foliage on the lower bowl of the fountain and created bronze replicas of the cupid and water-spouting swan.

That project, at a cost of about $85,000, concentrated on the fountain itself, with no work done on the surrounding infrastructure.

A historic postcard shows “Gondi’s Fountain” at the Italian Pavilion in San Francisco. Kramer Postcard Collection

“The 1980s restoration was one of my father’s greatest achievements,” Scott Fregonese said. “It meant a lot to my dad, and I’m so glad to see that the Ashland Parks Foundation is undertaking this project.”

Ashland Parks and Recreation decided to follow recommendations provided in a report from Architectural Resources Group, a firm specializing in architecture, planning, historic preservation and conservation, with offices in Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Rachel Jones, an Ashland resident who learned about Lithia Park while attending Briscoe Elementary School in the mid-1980s, is enthusiastic about the restoration project.

“The fountain has held a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember,” she said. “I would love to see it restored again for the next generation of kids growing up here.”

Over the years, the fountain and its setting have provided a beautiful backdrop for family, wedding and graduation photos. Planners hope that with the establishment of a reserve for ongoing preservation, major restorations will no longer be necessary.

Reach writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

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