Reconstruction of Allegheny Commons fountain unearths history
By Sarah Gross
It’s a project that’s been going on for decades. The complete reconstruction of the northeast fountain in Allegheny Commons Park was initially proposed in 1966. In 2002, it was brought back to attention, and just earlier this year, the groundbreaking took place.
The historic fountain was one of four that marked the corners of Allegheny Commons when the park was originally designed in 1867. According to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, due to budget issues within the city of Pittsburgh in the mid 1900s, the fountains were removed. Most of the residents, city planners and parks employees assumed that the pieces had either been put into storage or repurposed elsewhere in Pittsburgh.
In early June of this year, while construction was underway, excavators were digging to make room for the new fountain and came across pieces of the original one buried underneath. They found its original coping, foundation, main bowl and spire that held up the main bowl.
As for theories why Pittsburgh would bury a fountain, Jennifer Dailey, an organizer with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, said it was likely just budget constraints.
“At the time, [Pittsburgh] put a lot of their efforts into the steel industry. When that started to not be as profitable, it was likely they had to make some tough decisions on where they put their resources.”
This restoration project marks a powerful collaboration between the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Allegheny Commons Initiative, and the Northside Leadership Conference. All three groups, working with the city of Pittsburgh, made this reconstruction possible.
“On behalf of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, it’s an amazing example of how public [and] private partnerships can work successfully and achieve projects like this, said Dailey.
The current $2.5 million restoration plan covers installation of a new fountain as well as paths, garden beds, streetlamps and trash receptacles in the northeast corner of Allegheny Commons. The new fountain is modeled after the original one. No blueprints exist, so designers are recreating the appearance from old photographs and postcards.
“To me, personally, it’s the kickoff to the Parks Conservancy restoration work in Allegheny Commons,” said Erin Tobin, another organizer with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “It’s really exciting because we’re finally showing people that we’re here, and that we’re serious about restoring this park to what it used to be.”
Dailey and Tobin emphasize the pieces of the original fountain will be kept inside Allegheny Commons and repurposed within the park. The grand opening of the fountain is scheduled for fall of this year.