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Fountain fund gets a boost

A desire to honor former Ashland Planning Director John Fregonese might be the catalyst that jump-starts a languishing fundraising campaign to restore the century-old marble fountain in Lithia Park. That would be a fitting tribute to Fregonese and a benefit to the park and the entire community.

A news item in the archives of the Mail Tribune from 1915 reads, “ASHLAND, Nov. 15 — This city is to have two important souvenirs from the Panama-Pacific exposition at San Francisco with which to adorn its parks ... These acquisitions are a sure go. They have been bargained for in cold cash even to details as to freight rates and their transfer here is not dependent upon any hot air movement. Both are works of art in its highest sense, and are to be selected from the Italian exhibit at the big fair.”

The two “important souvenirs” were the elaborate fountain hand-carved in Italian marble now known as the Butler-Perozzi Fountain, for Gwin Butler and Domingo Perozzi, the two Ashland businessmen who donated it, and a statue of Abraham Lincoln, also of marble, the gift of Butler in honor of his stepfather.

The fountain was restored in 1987, during Fregonese’s tenure with the city, but is again showing its age. The Parks Foundation started raising money five years ago, but only $13,000 has been collected, and full restoration will cost an estimated $500,000.

Now that Fregonese’s family has made the project a priority, the fountain may finally be restored to its original grandeur.