Century-old Portland fountain, now in disrepair, envisioned as pocket-park 'oasis'
PORTLAND — A fountain built in the early 1900s to provide water for horses in the Old Port is expected to be repaired and protected later this year.
The Stanley Thomas Pullen Fountain is on Federal Street between Market and Pearl streets, behind Central Fire Station and across from the federal courthouse. The large, granite fountain juts into the street and has in recent years taken a beating from snowplows and skateboarders.
As part of a 2001 assessment of the city's public art, the Public Art Committee found that the Pullen Fountain needed repair work and some sort of protective barrier.
"We made it a priority," said Jack Soley, chairman of the committee. "It has degraded more than any (public art) in the city."
Soley said that last winter, Public Services put brightly colored Jersey barriers around the fountain to protect it from plows.
Local landscape architect Tony Muench volunteered to come up with a design for permanent protection that would create a "pocket park" with raised brick, bollards to protect the fountain from plows and skateboarders, benches and trees.
"We're hoping to create not just a barrier, but also to help create a little oasis there," Soley said.
Conservator Jonathan Taggart is expected to make repairs to the fountain. Soley said bids are still coming in for the project, but the committee hopes to keep the total cost under $20,000.
"We're relying on in-kind services as much as possible," he said, adding that public art gets about $50,000 each year from the city's Capital Improvement Projects budget.
Stanley Thomas Pullen was president of the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals. He died in 1910. The date the fountain was installed is not known, according to city Historic Preservation Board documents. However, it was reportedly in existence for several years before Central Fire Station was built, in 1923.
The fountain was designed to be a watering trough for horses. Muench, in an overview of the project, said the fountain is still used in the fall by horses that pull carriages on tours of the Old Port.
He added that while it would be desirable to continue to allow horses to access the fountain, installing bollards to protect it from plows is the priority.
Because it is located in a historic district, the fountain project is subject to review by the Historic Preservation Board, which is scheduled to visit the fountain Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 5 p.m.