Dearborn razing famous fountain for vet memorial
Dearborn officials are moving ahead with plans to raze Henry Ford Centennial Library’s iconic fountain and replace it with a veterans park and war memorial.
Construction has started and 24 cherry trees are set to be planted in coming weeks as crews work to ready the site on Michigan Avenue in time for a dedication after the Memorial Day parade on May 30, the city said in a statement Monday.
“This is an important milestone and demonstrates that the service of Dearborn’s veterans is an important part of our community’s history that should be preserved and shared with each generation,” Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said.
The elaborate Vermont marble fountain, part of a multimillion-dollar gift the Ford family gave the city in 1963 to honor the auto legend, has been inoperable since a pump malfunctioned in 2011, Dearborn officials said. The cost to fully restore the landmark was estimated at more than $1 million. The fountain had undergone repairs intended to “ensure the long-term future of the fountain,” according to the former public works director in 2006.
In 2012, city officials, citing annual maintenance costs of $75,000, considered a proposal to demolish the fountain in favor of a smaller version or even leveled for a garden. The idea provoked the ire of some residents who were dismayed that such an elegant feature would disappear. Others called it a financial drain on the city.
City documents show the general contractor for the new site, Tooles Contracting Group LLC, bid about $1.1 million.
A “substantial contribution” from AK Steel is helping the project, whose architect is Neumann/Smith Architecture, city officials said Monday.
The move to launch a veterans park/war memorial ramped up once Dearborn secured the sale of City Hall to the nonprofit developer Artspace for artists’ living and work space, officials said. The city no longer owns the property where the current war memorial sits at City Hall Park, so its four black obelisks are expected to be featured prominently at the new site.
Other highlights at the new park and memorial, which is slated to host ceremonies and other commemorations, include etched and lighted glass panels; green spaces; flags representing all five branches of military service; a battlefield cross; and “an eternal flame,” according to the post on the city’s website.