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Anderson's namesake rises again

Sculpture conservator Ted Monnich of Columbia guides part of the Gen. Robert Anderson Memorial Fountian into place outside the Anderson County Museum on Tuesday afternoon. The fountain will be dedicated at a Nov. 1 ceremony. [Will Chandler Anderson Independent-Mail]
Darrell Chapman with Center Rock Welding and Machine Shop welds a figure to the top of the Gen. Robert Anderson Memorial Fountain outside the Anderson County Museum on Tuesday. Local residents donated $45,000 toward restoration of the historic fountain, which was removed from downtown about 10 years ago. [Will Chandler Anderson Independent-Mail]
By Nicholas Charalambous
Anderson Independent-Mail


The Gen. Robert Anderson Memorial Fountain can be seen once again in all its grandeur nearly 10 years after it was ripped apart and removed from its home in a downtown plaza.

After a painstaking two-month process to restore the broken and corroded relic piece-by-piece, workers used a 60-foot crane on Tuesday to hoist the parts into place and reassemble the monument in a courtyard outside the entrance to new Anderson County Museum.

The 18-foot-tall, three-ton wrought iron structure honoring the Revolutionary War hero reclaimed its famed dominance over the landscape as it stood more than 100 feet off busy East Greenville Street gleaming in the sunlight with a fresh coat of black enamel paint.

"You think you remember it until you see it again, and it's so much larger than you thought it was," said Carole Dixon, owner of Avenue of Oaks, who closed her downtown store to witness its resurrection.

The event capped a remarkable reversal of fortune for the fountain, which is thought to be the first in the nation to have had underwater lighting and now is on the Smithsonian Institution's list of historic outdoor sculptures.

Erected in 1905 or 1906 by the Anderson Civic League as symbol of civic pride, the fountain was a popular spot for picnicking office workers and families before the demise of downtown turned it into a gathering place for vagrants and the decision was made to dismantle it.

Inspired by the construction of the Anderson County Museum, readers of the Anderson Independent-Mail donated $45,000 during last year's "Fix the Fountain" campaign to rescue the monument from storage at a county dump and restore it to its former glory.

Deputy museum director Catherine Bergstrom said she hoped the courtyard location, with a half-acre of lawn, would encourage families to visit the fountain once more.

"I think the real joy will be seeing people coming to the courtyard to eat lunch and relax to the sound of water falling," she said.

Ted Monnich, the former conservator of the state museum in Columbia who was in charge of cleaning and rebuilding the fountain, supervised Tuesday's delicate, day-long operation.

He said reassembling the parts was the most challenging part of the process because of the size and weight and the brittleness of wrought iron — a point proven by the fact that three decorative "leaves" around the perimeter of the fountain's large bowl snapped off when it was being loaded up. A welder later reattached them.

"We weren't too pleased about it, but it was no one's fault," he said.

Although the task of erecting the fountain was completed Tuesday, Mr. Monnich said that workers must reattach panels to the inside of the fountain's octagonal pool and touch up some parts with primer and black enamel paint before the water is turned on.

That will happen at an official dedication ceremony to be held Nov. 1, at which all the donors who contributed to the "Fix the Fountain" campaign will be honored.

"I think the ladies that got this started are smiling now," said local historian Fred Whitten about the women of the Anderson Civic League who organized the memorial.

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