Robinson Iron readies for restoration project

A cast iron fountain from Arizona, complete with this statue of Lady Ermintrude, recently arrived in Alexander City to receive an overhaul by Robinson Iron.

Robinson Iron in Alexander City is known worldwide for its work restoring statues, fountains and other cast-iron objects that are iconic pieces of their respective communities. Within the next few days, the company will be taking on another restoration job, bringing another fountain back to its former glory.

A cast iron fountain, complete with a statue of Lady Ermintrude that was the centerpiece of the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza in Prescott, Arizona recently arrived in Alexander City to receive a complete overhaul. Upon completion, the fountain will join the cast iron eagle that graced the former Russell Corp. headquarters before being installed at Russell Medical Center, a statue of Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth from Fountain Square Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the cupola from the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville and Themis, the Greek goddess of justice from on top of the county courthouse building in Waco, Texas as successful restorations from Robinson Iron.

“The courthouse plaza is a main attraction for our community,” Yavapai County Facilities Director Kenny Van Keuren said. “It is the heart and soul of the community.”

The fountain was originally installed on the courthouse plaza in 1916, but was removed sometime in the late 1960s or 1970s, according to Van Keuren. Eventually, it ended up in the basement of a local museum, where it was “rediscovered” while Prescott celebrated the 100th of the construction of the current courthouse building.

“I saw an article online about the fountain, and I contacted them about it,” Luke Robinson with Robinson Iron said. “They were very interested. We continued to go back and forth. They sent us a lot of good pictures of the fountain, and they kept us well-informed about where they stood.”

At some point while the fountain was in storage, one of the bowls had cracked and broken, which was a major hurdle the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors had to clear. Van Keuren said he had been in contact with several foundries in the area, all of whom would have to cast a new mold for the bowl, making restoration much more unlikely.

“Robinson Iron told us they had the mold for the bowl,” he said. “We sent them photos of the fountain, and they told us they could do this.”

During a March 7 meeting, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve $30,000 from the Facilities Department maintenance budget to have the restoration work done at Robinson Iron, according to an article from the Daily Courier of Prescott.

The fountain and statue arrived in Alexander City Monday, according to Robinson, and work is set to begin within the next couple of days.

“We’ll clean off all the old paint and rust from the fountain using a sand blaster,” he said. “The statue appears to be made of zinc, so we’ll have to chemically strip the paint off of it. Once all the paint is off, we can better assess the damage, make repairs and order new parts as needed.”

While there are parts Robinson feels will have to be replaced with brand new components, the company will be putting it back together using as many of the original pieces as possible. He estimated that the work will take between eight and 10 weeks to complete, and everyone at Robinson Iron is excited to be taking part in restoring this fountain.

“We love it. It means a lot to us to do things like this,” Robinson said. “We know how important these things are to communities like Prescott.

“This is the first cast-iron fountain from Arizona that we’ve restored. There aren’t as many cast-iron fountains out West as there are in the Northeast, the South and even in the Midwest.”

Once the work is completed and the fountain is returned to Prescott, Van Keuren said he hoped the county would be able to reinstall the fountain in its original spot on the courthouse plaza and have it up and running in time for the number of summer events the city and county holds on that location.

“We’re thrilled to be working with them. If it wasn’t for Robinson Iron, this would not have been possible,” Van Keuren said. “The public is thrilled as well. A lot of people out here, they’re all about their history and their Western heritage.”

Once the restoration work is completed and the century-old fountain and statue has been returned to its original spot in the city of Prescott, it will mark the culmination of a five year, $5 million restoration project Yavapai County took on to take the courthouse back to the way it looked 100 years ago. More than that though, it will mean the return of a iconic piece of local history to its original location, a place where area residents can admire the fountain while enjoying a full summer calendar of events.