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Drinking fountain damaged by car

December 12, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A drinking fountain given to the City of Martinsburg in 1902 to improve the town square will be repaired after a vehicle crashed into it last month along West Stephen Street, City Manager Mark Baldwin said this week.

"We're getting quotes to fix it," Baldwin said.

The Nov. 13 accident at the intersection of West Stephen Street and Virginia and Faulkner avenues dismantled the polished dark granite ball from the monument's crown and the square blocks of engraved granite beneath it. The base of the fountain was moved but remains upright.

The ball struck parked cars nearby and later was retrieved by city officials with a backhoe, according to individuals familiar with the accident.

Baldwin said the vehicle involved was insured and the city is separately planning to explore the cost of having the 106-year-old monument cleaned.

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The fountain hasn't worked for many years.

The monument originally was placed on the town square's southwest corner (at West King and South Queen streets) in August 1902, according to editions of the Martinsburg Statesman newspaper archived at Martinsburg Public Library.

The Feb. 7, 1902, edition of the twice-weekly first reported the gift to Martinsburg by an anonymous donor and that City Council had agreed to grant a "perpetual" permit for the fountain's use of water at the square.

"There is much guessing as to who the generous and public spirited citizen is ...," the newspaper reported.

Featuring a "drinking spicket" on two sides, the fountain's donor - Emily Alburtis Bishop - wasn't named by the newspaper until August 1902 when it was being installed in front of a home where the city's public library now stands.

The cost of the monument, ordered from a Quincy, Mass., company, was estimated to range between $2,000 and $3,000, the newspaper reported.

Bishop's granddaughter, Catherine Silver Martin, 91, of Martinsburg said Wednesday that the fountain was placed in front of "a beautiful house" that she recalled having beautiful interior wood trim and "floating stairs." Martin confirmed that her grandmother had it dedicated in memory of her son, Sprague Bishop, who died in 1900, and Bishop's husband, John W. Bishop, who passed away in 1897. Their names are engraved on the monument

Martin recalled childhood years when she and friends would go to the square the night before a school football game and yell at the town from the bandstand, which arrived less than a year after the fountain.

"Our square was pretty," said Martin, who recalled the square also having a watering trough for horses and a "pool" from which dogs could drink.

Only weeks before the fountain arrived in August 1902, the Statesman reported that a City Council committee formed for the public square's improvement had recommended the purchase of an iron bandstand for the public square at a cost of $440 and to spend another $410 for equipping it with lighting.

"The improvement of the public square has begun and we may expect to soon see a decided change in that quarter," the newspaper reported on the projects.

The bandstand was reported to be under construction in June 1903.

Both the monument and bandstand were removed several years later, and Martin said the iron portion of the bandstand was reused to support the war effort in World War II.

"I'm glad I grew up when I did," Martin said.

Restoring the bandstand or fountain is not part of a new plan to redesign the town square, City Engineer Michael Covell said this week.

The current improvement project was jump-started in September 2008 when Gov. Joe Manchin announced a $300,000 transportation grant award.

Covell said he hopes to move forward next year with efforts to obtain a conceptual design for revamping the town square. The design is expected to be based on recommendations outlined in the city's 2004 Downtown Plan.

The Downtown Plan's final concept for the town square depicts brick crosswalks and additional decorative lighting. The plan suggests landscaped green spaces on both sides of East King Street be uniform and connected by a large swath of decorative square paving.

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