Almost 200 years after pioneer James McClurg built a mansion in Westfield, community members are coming together to help restore a piece of history that disappeared after his death.
The Chautauqua County Historical Society and McClurg Museum have started a project to restore a fountain to Moore Park in Westfield.
According to John Paul Wolfe, museum curator, the fountain was first installed in the early 1820s, which makes it one of the earliest fountains in Western New York. The fountain was in use for an estimated 50 years, until shortly after McClurg died in 1872.
“We’re not sure exactly when it was put in, but it was probably shortly after he built the house,” said Wolfe. “He had his own reservoir to supply the fountain with the water.”
McClurg started building the large brick mansion, which is now the McClurg Museum, in 1817 or 1818. McClurg and his family moved in when the home was finished in 1820. According to Wolfe, William Moore, McClurg’s grandson, stated in 1916, “He took much pride in this home, sending away for rare trees and shrubs, which he trimmed into ornamental shapes to adorn the grounds, and conveying water in pipes from springs half a mile distant to operate a large fountain in which gold fish were kept on the grounds.”
The earliest photo of the McClurg Mansion that Wolfe has been able to locate is from the mid 1870s. It shows the base of the fountain with a flower urn sitting on top and a pond filled with dirt.
“It has remained that way until now,” said Wolfe. “It is believed that the metal base was removed during the World War II scrap metal drive. It has been a geranium garden every year since the 1950s when the Chautauqua County Historical Society moved in.”
The fountain that will be utilized for the restoration project was acquired in 1989. Eleanor Warner, a former school teacher and historian, gave her fountain to the Chautauqua County Historical Society to be placed in front of the mansion. It is the same fountain that is in Mayville Park and at the William Seward mansion in Auburn, N.Y.
“The historical society received this fountain in 1991 from Daniel Gardner of Falls Church, Va.,” said Wolfe. “It is molded cast iron, created by the Joseph W. Fiske Co. of New York City in 1868. This fountain is now residing on the first floor of the McClurg Museum in its restroom. It has been waiting for 20 years to be placed in the park.”
The project, which is currently underway, is organized by individuals, community groups and public entities in the Westfield area. The lead agency is the Chautauqua County Historical Society, with support from the Village of Westfield, which owns Moore Park.
According to Wolfe, the antique cast iron fountain, electric for security lights and cameras and the water will be provided by the Chautauqua County Historical Society. Bricks, which will surround the water basin, will be provided by the Village of Westfield. And, the Westfield Beautification Committee will plant a shrub rose garden to surround the fountain pond.
“The roses are being used to both coordinate with the Lincoln-Bedell Park roses and to create a visual buffer for the fountain,” said Wolfe. “The bricks are actually left from the Lincoln-Bedell project, and the Village of Westfield offered those to us to use around the outside of the fountain as part of the break.”
Although several organizations are involved in the project, the main funding source will be the local Westfield community. The idea is similar in nature to the 1999-2000 Lincoln-Bedell statue project, in which the community came together to make the project highly successful, said Wolfe.
“We are launching a fundraising campaign and, assuming sufficient funds are acquired, the project will be begun in May 2013, with an estimated completion date of August 2013,” said Wolfe.
The Chautauqua County Historical Society has also applied for a Community Pride Matching Grant from the Northern Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. According to Wolfe, no actual funds will be used from either the Village of Westfield or the historical society. Instead, he hopes that individuals, community groups, organizations, and local businesses will participate in fundraising.
“It’s coming from donations from the community, so it doesn’t affect taxes or membership – it’s a completely separate thing,” said Wolfe.
Those interested in participating can send money, of any amount, with a note specifying that the donation is for the McClurg Fountain Project, to: Chautauqua County Historical Society, Box 7, Westfield, NY 14787.
The donations received will be placed in a restricted fountain project account. If the fundraising is not completed by May 2013, the project will be canceled and the collected donations will be returned to the individual donors.