District 10 Como Community Council

Better Days are Ahead for Fountain

Better Days are Ahead for Fountain

schiffman fountain before
schiffman fountain before
The Schiffman Fountain before the ravages of time completely settled in.

Saint Paul Parks and Recreation is teaming with two foundations to restore the Schiffman Fountain in Como Park. As anyone could see last summer, the 120-year-old bronze sculpture and fountain are deteriorating rapidly in looks and performance. The cast-iron mermaid statue, which sits east of Lexington Parkway and south of the Lakeside Pavilion, is the city’s oldest.

On July 16, Parks and Recreation staff dismantled the sculpture and placed it in temporary storage. Beginning in September, Parks conservator Kristin Cheronis will restore the sculpture in her shop in Minneapolis.Cheronis will strip the statue of paint and corrosion; clean the metal; repair broken pieces and seriously corroded sections; replace missing elements (especially in the “ring of vegetation”); build a new base; and use fluoropolymer urethanes to repaint the sculpture in an historically appropriate color.

Meanwhile, Parks and Recreation crews will evaluate the condition of the water jets, underground plumbing, colored lights, electrical system, and overall condition of the fountain basin. At the very least, they expect to rebuild the plumbing, including a new water jet that shoots from the sculpture’s cornucopia. Plans include the possibility of bringing the sculpture, fountain and pool up to modern standards. Improvements under consideration include computerized water jets and LED lighting, says Eric Thompson, public art program manager for Parks.

The goal is to re-install the sculpture before the end of 2018.

Foundations make restoration possible
The City Council voted Dec. 20, 2017, to accept grants from to get the restoration done in 2018. The Berglund Family Foundation and the Cedarwoods Foundation will donate up to $40,000 to repair the statue, its base, and the statue’s interior plumbing. The City Council also approved accepting an additional $40,000 if the foundations agree to also upgrade the fountain pool and its water jets and lighting.

Rudolph Schiffman, a member of the original park board, donated the fountain in 1897. It was the first fountain in Como Park, The mermaid design is based on a fountain Schiffman saw in Barcelona, Spain. Jim Gerlich, a distant relative of Schiffman, represents the Cedarwood Foundation.

Parks and foundation representatives are exploring the costs of both basic needs and “wish list” items, Thompson says. These include:

  • Restoring the fountain, pool, and underwater lighting
  • Designing a customized cover to ensure the sculpture and pool no longer endure the ravages of winter
  • Adding an educational plaque
  • Renovating landscaping around the fountain

Thompson says the Ramsey County Garden Club is interested in assisting in landscaping after the fountain is renovated.

On Oct. 17, 2017, the District 10 Como Community Council board designated neighborhood resident Ann Schrooten as District 10’s liaison for the renovation efforts.

Updated July 12, 2018