Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Cogswell Fountain restoration earns RDA an award

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
May 19, 2006

VERNON - The Rockville Downtown Association has received an award for its work on restoring the Cogswell Memorial Fountain in Central Park.

The award, given by the Connecticut Main Street Center, recognizes the organization for excellence in administering a public improvements project, officials said.

RDA officials will receive the award at a June 19 ceremony in New London.

Last fall, officials dedicated the restored fountain, which originally was donated to the town in 1893 by Henry D. Cogswell, a dentist, California real estate tycoon, and famed backer of the temperance movement.

The fountain restoration is part of a larger, state-funded effort to rejuvenate Central Park, a small, grassy area across Park Place from Town Hall.

The fountain project was paid for using a state grant and a $50,000 donation by Rosetta Pitkat, a lifelong resident of the Rockville section of town.

Using those funds, RDA officials coordinated the restoration project, which included the creation of a replica of a zinc-alloy statue of Cogswell that was originally on top of the fountain.

The statue depicts Cogswell holding a temperance pledge in one hand and a glass of water in the other.

Cogswell once said he believed the availability of water from a fountain would keep people away from alcohol.

In creating the Awards for Excellence, which is awarded to various Main Street programs around the state, Connecticut Main Street Center officials said they hoped to encourage further redevelopment efforts.

"This program ... was created to recognize the exceptional accomplishments of designated Main Street programs and their partners, as they work together to achieve profound positive transformation of their downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts," Main Street Center Executive Director John Simone said in a news release.

RDA Executive Director Randy Anagnostis said he was pleased by the award and credited former RDA Executive Director Luise S. Craige with spearheading the project before his arrival late last summer.

"It's sort of the epitome of a good, historic restoration project," Anagnostis said. "It's nice that the RDA is able to get that award."

Anagnostis said restoration projects, like the Cogswell fountain, are important tools in helping to preserve local history for future generations, as well as visitors.

This is especially important in New England communities, which feature a great many historic structures and sites, he said.

"It would be a shame, for the next generation coming up, to lose so much of that heritage," Anagnostis said. "For the state, it tends to serve the purpose of supporting tourism as an industry. There are things within New England that they can't see in other places."

But the Cogswell fountain has not always been appreciated by local residents.

On July 4, 1885, roughly two years after Cogswell's donation, the statue was stolen and dumped in the Shenipsit Lake.

It was recovered, cleaned, and repaired only to disappear a short time later.

On July 4, 1908, the statue reappeared near the fountain during the town's centennial celebration, with a sign around its neck saying, "I've come back for Old Home Week."

Town officials stored the statue at a farm until World War II, when it was melted down for scrap.

©Journal Inquirer 2006