Bath to celebrate Zorach Fountain renovations

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BATH — This weekend, the city will party like it’s 1962.

That’s the year the Zorach Fountain was unveiled at Library Park. Now, 55 years later, several months of major improvements to the pond are complete, and a celebration of the project will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 25.

The pond’s water quality and drainage have been approved, along with access to the sculptural fountain. Mark Jorgensen, a landscape designer who, with landscape architect Bruce John Riddell, drew up the project, has worked with contractors to install frost walls, resurface the base, and install edgings with plantings and boulders.

Erosion was occurring around the manmade pond, which sits near the intersection of Washington and Summer streets, and the area would stay wet through August, Betsy Harrington, a member of the Friends of the Zorach Fountain board of directors, said last October. The new drainage system runs to the pond from the Library Park gazebo.

To prepare the city fixture for its re-introduction, 9,000 square feet of sod has been laid down, “so we’re doing a lot of watering,” city Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni said in an interview June 15.

The Friends started raising funds for the $427,000 project in 2013, and have brought in more than $200,000 from foundations, individuals and businesses. The balance comes from the city through tax increment financing funds, Balboni said.

The project has remained on budget and on schedule. Work continued through the winter, thanks to a heated tent used through the project’s stages.

“They did quite a bit throughout the cold weather,” Balboni said, noting that timing-wise, “things are right where we thought they would be.”

Comparing the Zorach Fountain and pond to how they appeared a year ago, he remarked, “I think it’s incredible. The beauty of it is stunning; it adds such a nice piece to the whole park area.”

The fountain, created by William Zorach and dubbed “Spirit of the Sea,” was installed and dedicated to the city in August 1962.

Born in Lithuania in 1887, Zorach was later recognized as the dean of American sculpture in New York for reintroducing the method of carving directly in stone. He and his wife purchased property in Georgetown in 1923.

The Bath Garden Club invited Zorach to design and sculpt the City Park fountain in February 1959, according to zorachfountain.org. He offered to donate his work, as long as the club assumed the expense of casting in bronze, the plumbing, and the granite pedestal and base.

Between May 1959 and April 1962, the club had reached its $15,000 goal, allowing preparatory work to begin in the park.

The late Margie Bliss and her husband Arthur began the effort to restore the sculpture and started the Friends of the Zorach Fountain in 2002. The completed restoration was celebrated in 2005.

The Maine Arts Commission called the piece “perhaps the finest piece of outdoor sculpture in the state,” according to the Friends.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The renovated Zorach Fountain and surrounding pond at Library Park in Bath have undergone months of renovations, which culminate with a celebration at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 25.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.
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