by Bill Mardis
By the time you read this, Somerset’s magnificent fountain, the centerpiece of Fountain Square, should be flowing for the 2014 season.
“We hope to have it flowing by the end of today,” Tiffany Bourne, community development director for Pulaski County, said at midafternoon yesterday.
Bourne said four additional benches will be added during the next couple of weeks. These four, as well as the existing four, are all sponsored, she noted.
The new fountain, dedicated with the renovated square last October 4, has been a traffic stopper. Designed by Russell Sitter, the impressive water display, powered by a new electrical system, replaced an old fountain that sucked its power from the courthouse electrical system.
The fountain is part of a $1 million renovation of the square, funded by a $800,000 Transportation Enhancement grant and $200,000 in-kind contribution by Pulaski County.
The spirit of what is now a sparkling oasis has been the “heartbeat” of Somerset almost from the time the community was first settled in 1798 by Thomas Hansford and several members of the Jasper family.
In reality, the public square, without a fountain, was present as early as 1800 when the area was an ungraveled and unpaved expanse just north of the fabled Town Spring, around which Somerset was born.
A committee of county justices and town commissioners was formed in 1893 to plan for a fountain on the public square.
Some 15 years later -- in 1908 -- this was accomplished when a group called the Commercial Club raised $1,250 from citizens and businesses. This, along with appropriations from Pulaski Fiscal Court and Somerset Town Council, was used to pay for developing the square and installing a fountain.
The recent renovation of Fountain Square was the first major re-do since the late Senator John Cooper and his wife upgraded the square in 1963.