Image courtesy of Ronald C. Saari.

The Josephine Fountain will be restored

… just in time for summer! In case you haven’t heard, this historic fountain is being rebuilt with the help and funding of the city. Set to open in mid to late July, the restoration has taken three full years. The fountain provides beautiful sights and photo opportunities for visitors of Brandywine State Park, where it resides.

Summarized from the full article of

While the process has been a long time coming, lead architect Kevin Rychlicki said it will be worth it. The 1933 fountain was donated by Col. J. Ernest Smith for his wife Josephine. It sits near the Brandywine River in Wilmington.

The fountain was last restored in 1993 when the bowl was cracked and the statue had been broken. The current renovation started in June 2015, with the state and city working on it and funding it together. Their first step was to ask consultants Materials Conservation Co. of Philadelphia to look at the fountain. That company determined the condition of the fountain, what work was needed and an estimate of the cost, Rychlicki said.

Rychlicki had known the fountain was made of limestone, an extremely porous stone that’s usually not used for structures holding water. “Limestone absorbs water,” he said. The stone was holding the water, causing pieces to crack.

Materials Conservation said the biggest problem was the group of four mermaids that hold up the basin. Water flowed through pipes out of holes along the basin and the fountain nozzles were discovered to have a slight bend in them that caused the water to trickle back into the stone.

Among other problems, Materials Conservation also found significant cracking in the octagonal base, dark soiling on the standing female sculpture, and green soiling underneath the pool basin beneath the sculpture. Components of the Josephine Fountain, a centerpiece of Brandywine Park, sit dismantled at the Wilmington park.

Realizing it was an emergency situation, Materials Conservation quickly disassembled the fountain to store it in crates, and the crews were able to gauge the severity of the damage and repair what was needed. Ultimately, the experts said, the structure was so damaged that there was a chance it would fall.

They recommended, and the city/state decided, to remove and replace much of the fountain’s pieces. The project took a while to get approved and to receive a $242,000 budget from the Wilmington State Parks Endowment, Rychlicki said.

The project is expected to come in under budget. Right now it’s $11,000 less than the full amount. Most of the cost is labor for the craftsman creating the molds, Rychlicki said. News of the fountain’s return pleases Michael Melloy.

He grew up in Wilmington and is the interim executive director of Friends of Wilmington Parks. The Josephine Fountain and the Jasper Crane Rose Garden are the two jewels of the park, he said. “That’s a cool little geographical area, rose garden, the fountain and a zoo along the Brandywine River,” he said. Melloy said the fountain and garden are part of the untold story of the beauty in the parks.

“We kind of take it for granted here, but people from out-of-town look and say that is out of a movie,” he said. “It’s picture perfect.” He is excited that the park will have the fountain back to attract locals. The rose garden’s hundreds of bushes will be in full bloom as the fountain is unveiled, Melloy said.

“I’ve done a lot of restoration projects,” Rychlicki said, “and it’s not unusual for restoration projects to take a long time, but it is worth it.”

The fountain has been waiting such a very long time … take a selfie to welcome her back to park with a selfie and #WilmToday!


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