ST. ALBANS — As though in preparation for Valentine’s Day workers at the Robinson Iron Corp. facility in Alabama are assembling the new cherubs for the Taylor Park fountain.
Cast in aluminum from the original molds, the three cherubs are made of 20 to 30 individual pieces that are being welded together. The welds will be ground smooth so the seams don’t show and then the painting process will begin.
“That’s really the way they were made originally,” said Robinson Iron vice president Scott Howell, who is overseeing the restoration in Alexander City, Ala.
The fountain was made by J.W. Fiske Co., of New York, explained Howell. Robinson is casting the pieces in aluminum, but the originals were made with a zinc alloy and soldered together. The zinc is “very hard to repair,” said Howell, which is one of the reasons the cherubs are being redone in aluminum.
The four ladies that sat around the base of the fountain and the water nymph from the top are also being recast. The originals will return to St. Albans but Robinson recommends they be given an indoor location. “They’ve really done they’re duty, so to speak,” said Howell.
Right now the cherubs are a shiny silver color. “They’ll look totally different when they’re coated,” Howell said. The paint selected for the fountain is black with a greenish highlighting coat.
Robinson has finished stripping the centerpieces of the fountain and is beginning to repair them. For example, one bowl from the middle of the fountain had holes from a time when the fountain was lit. “We had to repair the holes where the little light fixtures were,” said Howell.
New material was welded into the holes to fill them and will be ground down to match the rest of the bowl, he explained.
Repair of the fountain requires careful, painstaking work. “It is a time consuming, very labor-intensive process,” said Howell. He estimates the repair work alone will involve 1,000 to 1,200 hours of labor.
This kind of repair isn’t unusual for Robinson Iron, which specializes in fountains.
During the period from the end of the Civil War until 1910, foundries around the U.S. turned to architectural work, including fountains. “There was a tremendous amount of foundry capacity built up during the war,” said Howell. After the war the foundries began looking for new things to make, including furniture, building facades and gazebos, he explained, as well as fountains.
Currently, the Rotary Club of St. Albans, which has taken on the challenge of raising the funds for the fountain repair, and St. Albans City staff are determining whether it will be cost-effective to replace the pool for the fountain or reseal it. Also under discussion are landscaping options for the area surrounding the pool.
The fountain will return to Taylor Park this spring.