WESTFIELD, N.Y. – A number of individuals in the Westfield area are working to restore a fountain to Moore Park, located in the center of the village. In the early 1820s a fountain was first installed in front of the McClurg Mansion (today the McClurg Museum), making it one of the earliest fountains in all of Western New York. It remained in use for an estimated 50 years, before finally being turned off in 1872 and removed not long after. Now, an effort is once again underway to bring the fountain back.
The Mansion and the Fountain
James McClurg was an early pioneer of Westfield who started building a large brick mansion in 1817 or 1818. McClurg and his family moved in when the home was finished in 1820. William Moore, McClurg’s grandson, states in 1916, “He took much pride in this home, sending away for rare trees and shrubs, which he trimmed into ornamental shapes to adorn the grounds, and conveying water in pipes from springs half a mile distant to operate a large fountain in which gold fish were kept on the grounds.”
The Chautauqua County Historical Society – which currently occupies the McClurg Mansion and uses it as a museum to exhibit its collection – acquired a copy of an early title search from the late Jack Skahill. In this document, a deed dated Feb. 13, 1855 states:
“… transfers to the Trustees of Westfield Village from McClurg a right of way for the purpose of digging up the earth and laying down pipe and constructing a closed water course for conducting water from the spring on the lands of the said James McClurg to the reservoir near the springs and thence to the reservoir and fountain on the common in the village of Westfield where the same are now located (on the corner of Main and South Portage).
“…The said McClurg, reserving to himself all the surplus water over and above that quantity and also the privilege of taking out water from a point near the house to and for the use of his dwelling and for a small jett in his front yard…”
It should be noted that the Village of Westfield minutes of October 1854 state that Buck and Patchen were contracted to build a reservoir and fountain (a holding tank for the fountain) on the NW corner of the Commons.
According to the 1881 Atlas of Chautauqua County, there is an image of a “reservoir” shown over three blocks away from the mansion, on the south side of Third Street, between Union and Spring Streets. It is believed this was James McClurg’s original reservoir for his home.
At some point after McClurg’s death in 1872, the village, which then controlled the reservoir, turned off the fountain. The earliest photo of the McClurg Mansion (mid 1870s) shows the base of the fountain with a flower urn sitting on top of it and the pond that was in the park has been filled in with dirt. It has remained that way until now. It is believed that the metal base was removed during the World War II scrape metal drive.
Bringing the Fountain Back to Moore Park
According to McClurg Museum curator John Paul Wolfe, in 1989, Eleanor Warner, a former school teacher/historian in Chautauqua County, gave her fountain to the Chautauqua County Historical Society to be placed in front of the Mansion.
“The historical society received this fountain in 1991 from Daniel Gardner of Falls Church, Va.,” Wolfe explains. “It is molded cast iron, created by the Joseph W. Fiske Co. of New York City in c.1868. This fountain is now residing on the first floor of the McClurg Museum in its restroom. It has been waiting for twenty years to be placed in the Park!”
The fountain features a boy and a girl under an umbrella, and is similar to one located in Mayville, N.Y. as well as one located in front of the William Seward Mansion in Auburn, N.Y. (He, of course lived at the McClurg in 1837).
Wolfe says a McClurg Fountain restoration project is now underway, organized by individuals, community groups and public entities in the Westfield area. The lead agency is the Chautauqua County Historical Society, with support from the Village of Westfield, which owns Moore Park.
Under the restoration plan, the antique cast iron fountain, electric (for security lights and cameras) and water will all be provided by the historical society. Bricks, which will surround the water basin, are being provided by the Village of Westfield. The Westfield Beautification Committee will be planting the shrub rose garden surrounding the fountain pond. These roses are being used to both coordinate with the Lincoln-Bedell Park roses and to create a “visual buffer” for the fountain.
Wolfe explains that the main funding source for this project will be the local Westfield community.
“We are launching a fundraising campaign and, assuming sufficient funds are acquired, the project will be begun in May 2013, with an estimated completion date of August 2013,” he says.
Wolfe adds that the historical society has also applied for a Community Pride Matching Grant from the Northern Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and emphasizes that no actual monies will be used from either the Village of Westfield or the historical society. Instead, the hope is that the project brings the community together, similar to the highly successful 1999-2000 Lincoln-Bedell statue project (which was on a much larger scale).
Individuals, community groups, organizations, and local businesses are being asked to participate in fundraising. If anyone is interested in participating in this project, money (of any amount) can be sent to:
Chautauqua County Historical Society
Westfield, NY 14787
Please make sure to note that your donation is for the “McClurg Fountain Project.” Any money received will be place in a Restricted Fountain Project account with the historical society. If the fundraising is not completed by May 2013, the project will be canceled and all monies will be returned to the individual donors.
If anyone has any questions, please contact the McClurg museum at 326-2977, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or John Paul Wolfe, historical society Trustee and McClurg Museum Curator at 326-3714.