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Granite drinking fountain restored

March 23, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A granite drinking fountain that was dismantled in November by a vehicle that crashed into it has been restored and cleaned, and Martinsburg officials are exploring options to further protect the almost-107-year-old monument.

The fountain's restoration at the junction of West Stephen Street, and Virginia and Faulkner avenues, was completed last week by Hammaker Memorials in Martinsburg.

"They did a real nice job -- besides putting the monument back together," City Manager Mark Baldwin said Monday. "It looks really nice. We appreciate the work that he did."

Originally given to the city in 1902 to improve the town square, the "Quincy granite" monument would cost $80,000 to $100,000 if it were ordered by a customer today, Hammaker Memorials owner Steve Ashton estimated.

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"That type of granite isn't quarried anymore," Ashton said.

While the stone was valued for its hardness and dark color, Ashton said the intricate cuts that went into making the monument, crowned by a hand-polished granite ball, added substantial expense.

Comprised of seven pieces, including a base that weighs about 7,000 pounds, the fountain was given to the city by Emily Alburtis Bishop, the wife of a prominent businessman in Martinsburg.

The names of Bishop's son, Sprague Bishop who died in 1900, and her husband, John W. Bishop, who died in 1897, are engraved and polished on the monument, which appears to be shaped like a bishop piece in the game of chess.

When struck by the vehicle on the night of Nov. 13, 2008, the hand-polished ball was dislodged from the monument's crown and the square block of engraved granite beneath it was dismantled. The block's corners were chipped. The base of the fountain remained upright, but it also was gouged at least in one area. The ball reportedly struck parked cars in the neighborhood nearby and was later retrieved with a backhoe.

Ashton said it took three men about eight hours to clean the monument of dirt, coal dust and particulate from the air.

The city paid Hammaker $550 to have the cleaning done in concert with the repair work, which was paid for with $1,550 in insurance money from the accident.

To reassemble the monument, Ashton said they had to build a jig to pick up the ball and used their crane truck to move the other pieces. The monument base was sandblasted on-site and the ball was reattached with an epoxy to help keep it from coming off again, Ashton said.

Baldwin said the city is considering options such as decorative lighting to make the fountain more visible. He didn't know if neighboring residents would be interested in planting flowers around the monument, but didn't dismiss the idea.

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