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Fountain to Sprout in Lebanon

Committee Seeks Designs for Fixture to Reclaim Spot on Downtown Mall

A woman takes a mid-day walk around Coburn Park in Lebanon near a fountain erected in the memory of Henry W. Carter Monday, August 11, 2008. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

A woman takes a mid-day walk around Coburn Park in Lebanon near a fountain erected in the memory of Henry W. Carter Monday, August 11, 2008. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Lebanon — The city’s most recently installed public fountain was unveiled a little more than a year ago on High Street, and the group responsible for the attraction has its sights set on one of the city’s more prominent locations for its next project: the Lebanon Mall.

The Lebanon Fountain Committee recently began soliciting conceptual designs for a fountain that would take back its once-rightful spot in front of Three Tomatoes Trattoria, where a water feature flowed within the last two decades, before it was replaced by a flower bed.

The fountain on the mall’s pedestrian walkway would be the fourth water fixture to be restored by the committee since Chairwoman Priscilla Gosselin wandered into her role commandeering the civic body about 15 years ago. The committee’s goal is to eventually have seven fountains up and bubbling in the city once again, as many as Lebanon enjoyed in the fountain heyday of the late 19th century.

For Gosselin, the symbol of a fountain not only represents the city’s heritage and improves the quality of life for Lebanon residents, “it encompasses the whole family.

“That, to me, is special,” Gosselin said. “When you see the children around it, and people are bringing their children to it. Even the people who come to the Opera House — the older generation who remembers the fountains — it’s just a special feel that it gives the city.”

She added, “I think the running water is just a very relaxing atmosphere. It brings a smile.”

The committee has one design already in hand, but a Lebanon employer sponsoring the project, who Gosselin said has asked to remain anonymous, asked for the solicitation of other designs to encourage community input. Depending on the design chosen, the cost of the fountain could run from $20,000 to $50,000, and the majority of the construction costs would be paid for by the sponsor.

Gosselin said that the committee is looking to raise enough money to cover the plumbing installation, which she estimated would be 5 to 10 percent of the total cost. She hopes to have a design chosen within the next couple of months, and estimated that the majority of the work will be done within a year. The timing is such that the fountain on the mall is not likely to be unveiled until May of 2015 because water fixtures are commonly closed down during the winter months.

The committee is looking for a fountain design that won’t splash or spray pedestrians passing by, and one that recycles the water it uses.

“Other than that, it needs to fit in with the space,” Gosselin said. “It needs to be community-oriented, something that appeals to everyone, which is hard.”

The committee appeared to hit that sweet spot with its last unveiled fountain, the Robert Leavitt Memorial Fountain. That water feature has two flowing streams representing the Connecticut and Mascoma Rivers, an homage to the old Lebanon mill that provided an industrial center for the town not far from the fountain’s location.

Gosselin is hoping to find another design everyone can be happy with for the fixture on the mall, but one obstacle might be an apparent satisfaction with how the mall looks now.

Marty Carlton, who owns the Shoetorium, said he was open-minded to the idea of a fountain in the space the flowerbed occupies, but he also enjoys the feel that the bright array of flowers currently in place brings to the pedestrian shopping area.

“It just seems to flow in this area and looks nice,” Carlton said.

Another business owner on the mall, Richard Wallace of Omer and Bob’s, said he is in favor of putting a fountain back in that spot.

“It was nice back then,” Wallace recalled. “The only problem was the breeze.”

But Wallace said he thinks fountains are “really cool,” and with a design that would minimize the spray to passers-by, it could be a beautiful addition to the area, not to mention a boon for retail.

“Anything that makes Lebanon aesthetically more appealing to people improves the business climate here,” Wallace said. “And it also improves the property values for homes nearby.”

Gone With the Wind

Not far away, in front of the Soldiers Memorial Building, the quirky Carter Memorial Fountain that features a little girl holding an umbrella has been missing for the past month.

The fixture on top of the fountain was knocked over by wind during a storm in September, and while it only suffered minor damages, it won’t be put back into place until sometime after Memorial Day. That’s because the fountains are typically shut down for the winter in late October and reopened in the spring.

And while Lebanon has seen more than its shares of storms lately, Gosselin said there’s no need to worry — the Carter fountain will be fastened in place when it returns in May.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213