Work starts on Baker Fireman’s Fountain Restoration

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From Owego Hose Team:

“Work starts on Baker Fireman’s Fountain Restoration.” 
Fountain to be removed tomorrow, Wednesday, July 11th between 8 AM and Noon.  Public information session planned tomorrow evening at 7 PM.

Owego, N.Y. – Owego Hose Teams, Inc., the local not-for-profit spearheading the Baker Fireman’s Fountain Restoration, announces work has begun on the project.  Robinson Iron will be onsite in Owego tomorrow, July 11th for fountain removal and transport to their facility in Alexander City, Alabama.  Disassembly of the fountain is expected to take four hours beginning at 8 AM. A well-known conservation firm, Robinson Iron holds the original “Fiske Casting Catalogue.”  The J.W. Fiske Company originally cast the Baker Fireman’s Fountain in 1914.  Treatment of the fountain will take at least 8 weeks.  

A public information session on the project will be held Wednesday evening at the American Legion on Front Street at 7 PM.  The public is invited to attend to hear more about the project.  Light hors d’oeuvre will be served with a cash bar.  The 104 year old fountain in the village’s courthouse square will undergo a complete restoration that includes cement and concrete replacement, cast iron refurbishment, repainting, pipe, plumbing and pump work, electrical work, basin liner repair and updated landscaping.  A new “Memorial Brick Walkway” leading to the fountain along with stamped concrete surrounding the fountain in the shape of a firefighter’s Maltese cross are additional features of the project.  The cross will honor Owego’s five fallen firefighters.  

Contractors from McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory in Oberlin, Ohio were at the fountain site in June.  Nationally known, McKay Lodge personnel are conducting the fountain condition assessment, treatment and maintenance plans as well as writing specifications for the fountain concrete, water and electric work.  

Along with McKay Lodge and Robinson Iron other companies working on the project include Seamus Cerretani Concrete, J.O.C. Construction, SUEZ Water, Hulslander Concrete, Charlie Munroe of Good Earth Landscaping, and Global Industrial Services.  Fundraising has been ongoing since 2017 and grants from the Mildred Faulkner Truman Foundation and the Fannie C. Hyde Charitable Trust have supported the restoration.  To date roughly $75,000 has been raised primarily though the Owego Hose Team Memorial Golf Tournament, “Buy a Brick” campaign, Monte Carlo Nights, elementary school tee shirt sales, chicken BBQs, chicken wing eating contest and grants.  

The fountain was given to the Village of Owego and its firefighters in 1914 by Frank M. Baker as a memorial to his son, George Hobart Baker, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1913.   Both men had been members and chief engineers of the Owego Fire Department.  The fountain was last restored in 2000 and has again fallen into disrepair.    The fountain was originally purchased for $2,000.  Modeled by Caspar Buberl (1834-1899) and sold by J.W. Fiske the fountain is called the “Fiske Fireman.”  Fourteen zinc statues of fireman similar to the one in Owego are located across the United States.  The first known statue of this design was erected in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1891.  The theme of a fireman holding a child in the crook of his left arm reflects the format of the statue on the New York Firemen’s Monument, which harkens back to the iconic image of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus.  The fountain and surround were originally cast in multiple pieces and assembled on site.

Additional funding is being raised for the restoration to include pending grant submissions.  The overall project cost estimate is $115,601.02.  The hose team hopes to have the project completed this fall contingent upon closing this funding gap.  Project status information is available on the hose team website at www.OwegoHoseTeams.com.  The website will be updated throughout the restoration process courtesy of Amy Gavin.  Donations for the effort can be made via the website or by sending checks to Owego Hose Teams, Inc. at 461 East Main Street, Owego with “fountain” in the memo line.  “Memorial Walkway Bricks” also continue to be sold.  

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