Fountain proposal springs forward

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

Southington resident and Planning and Zoning Commission vice chair Paul Chaplinsky proposed a project for the preservation, relocation, and restoration of a historic fountain in Plantsville.

Chaplinsky spoke before the Parks and Recreation board, as well as the Town Council, to gain approval for the project, which would relocate the fountain to the Plantsville green.

Belonging to the late Lucius V. Walkley, the Walkley Fountain stands in the backyard of 35 Elm St. in Plantsville, at the home of Reno Pelletier and his wife.

“They’ve been gracious enough to let me visit the site over the years

The Walkley Fountain as it stands today in the backyard of 35 Elm St., Plantsville

and see what it looks like,” Chaplinsky told the council.

 

The fountain, which is over 100 years old and 21 feet in diameter, is partially buried. Relocation will require excavation to determine exactly what needs to be done. According to Chaplinsky’s report, the fountain is in “pretty good shape, considering its age.”

Funding for relocation and preservation will not come from the town, though the project is a public-private partnership. Town officials are on board to assist with plans, but Chaplinsky is raising the money through donors and volunteers who are willing to help. Ali’s nursery and HQ Landscaping both agreed to help Chaplinsky with the disassembly and installation.

“Beyond those two businesses, I am looking to raise $10,000 to $12,000 for additional components of the project,” Chaplinsky said.

While the relocation was originally considered for the walking trail, the Plantsville green was ultimately chosen for the new destination.

“All the other places that we looked at really had constraints,” Chaplinsky said to the council. “We have power, water, and sewer all at the town green so it’s relatively easy to tap into these.”

The town engineer requested that the fountain be tied into the sewer sys tem because of the chlorine that would keep the water clean.

Chaplinsky told the council his goal is to “relocate [the fountain] to a place that would make a lot of sense for the community, so that people could enjoy it and also learn a little bit about the history of the Walkley fountain and the Walkley area.”

A project from 2003 almost directly parallels Chaplinsky’s, as a fountain was relocated from Recreation Park to the Southington Town Green. The fountain that was moved in 2003 belonged to Emma Bradley Yeomans Newell, who came from another prominent Southington family. Similar to Chaplinsky’s project, $12,000 was raised privately with the help of another elected official, Town Council chair Michael Riccio.

After seeing the Yeoman’s horse fountain abandoned in Recreation Park about 15 years ago, Riccio began a project to restore and relocate it.

“It bothered me to see in that state,” he said. “I was on the council at the time and got permission from them to move it. I then got permission from the First Congregational Church to put it on their land.”

If these two historical monuments didn’t have enough in common, there’s more than meets the eye.

Fifteen years after Walkley fronted $5,000 for the public library, Yeomans Newell bequeathed money for an addition to the library, eventually completed in 1930. The addition, known as the Sylvia Bradley Memorial, stored the collections of the Southington Historical Society after its formation in the 1960s. Both wealthy philanthropists, Walkley and Yeomans Newell are known for their contributions to that downtown staple.

It seems that two elected officials spearheaded these projects nearly 15 years apart, much like the former Southington residents spearheaded the library projects 15 years apart.

There is another Yeoman’s fountain on the Plantsville Green, which Riccio suggested to Chaplinsky to tie into the Walkley fountain on the same pump system.

After a series of presentations, the Parks and Recreation board, Town Council, and Planning and Zoning Commission all approved the project.

An aerial view of the proposed fountain site on the Plantsville green. (Courtesy of Paul Chaplinsky)

The fountain: One businessman’s legacy

A historic fountain scheduled to relocate to downtown Plantsville belonged to the late Lucius V. Walkley, who was a prominent figure in the Southington and Plantsville communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Planning and Zoning vice chair Paul Chaplinsky spearheaded the fountain project to help educate residents about the Walkley family and their impact on the Southington and Plantsville communities. Once it is relocated, the fountain will have a plaque with a brief overview of his contributions to the town.

History shows more than a plaque’s worth of credentials.

A wealthy man, Walkley was the owner of the Pultz and Walkley Company, which mass-produced flat-bottomed paper bags. The plant was located where Dean’s Stove & Spa is today on West Main Street and was one of the first of its kind.

When a large competitor of Pultz and Walkley made Walkley an offer, he sold the company for $1.2 million, but his career in business didn’t stop there. He became president of the H.D. Smith Company around 1904 and was instrumental in their success, according to Southington town historian Phil Wooding.

“Walkley was very resourceful and moved in and out of several businesses very successfully,” said Wooding. “He was an astute business man.”

As a dairy farmer, he owned Belleview Farm, a parcel that is now seen as Belleview Avenue.

Walkley also served in the Connecticut General Assembly as Plantsville’s state representative in both the 1901 and 1909 legislative terms. He is remembered best for his contribution that funded the opening of the original Southington Public Library, now the Southington Historical Society. He donated half the cost of the building when it opened in 1902 at 239 Main St., and a small bronze plaque hanging above the front door recognizes him.

The fountain that Chaplinsky proposed to move stood as the centerpiece of Walkley Park, which was also equipped with a pond, walking pathways, and a manicured lawn.

“The park included the area bounded by Cowles Avenue, Elm Street, Prospect Street and Summer Street,” Wooding said.

Today, the fountain is in the backyard of 35 Elm St., home of Reno Pelletier and his wife.

Walkley and his wife resided in the Walkley Mansion – also known as “The Knoll” – which stood where The Summit at Plantsville is today. Their home overlooked the park, and was demolished several years ago.

“Aside from pictures, the only tangible material left from the park is that fountain,” said Wooding.

The historian said that after building the park, Walkley offered to donate it to Southington, but the town thought the cost of upkeep would be too much.

“Having been rejected, it was slowly sold off to housing,” Wooding said. Currently, the area that once was Walkley Park is now a series of residential streets.

Now, a group of volunteers and donors will work together to restore the fountain. The Pelletiers gave everyone permission to excavate the fountain from their property so it can be restored and installed on the Plantsville green.

 

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