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What began as a brain-storming idea during a small staff meeting has now culminated into the restoration of fountains in downtown, all dating from the last dozen years of the 19th century.
The meeting attended by John Regan, the city’s COO, Tim Burchfield, the CAO, and Catherine Culver, the Department of Heritage Tourism’s Marketing and Events Coordinator, was held to fine tune the city’s annual Noche de Gala, an event held each February to commemorate the birthday of Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, St. Augustine’s founder.
With the idea to deposit any proceeds from the Gala into an enterprise fund dedicated to specific projects related to historic preservation, the meeting was held to determine this year’s project.
Unanimously, it was agreed that the restoration of the city’s distinct chain of Flagler Era fountains, many of which have not functioned properly for years, would be an appropriate initial recipient of the Gala’s proceeds. As plans were developed, three separate local contractors stepped up and offered to work on the project as an in-kind, public service donation to the community, and as a way to honor family members.
First to be returned to its free-flowing state was the fountain west of Government House, between King Street and Cathedral Place. That work was done by John Valdes and his company John Valdes and Associates, William Putnam, Duane Gilrie, Stuart George, Wayne Ferrell and Tim Wine. It was in memory of Desmond R. Valdes, John’s brother. The park and then the fountain were created when Cathedral Place was extended from St. George Street west to Cordova Street after the opening of the Ponce de Leon Hotel, now Flagler College.
When St. Augustine’s new train depot opened in 1888 on the site of today’s fire station building, the park and its fountain was the first bit of St. Augustine that greeted new arrivals. The station was designed to resemble the original depot.
The second restored fountain, in the park adjacent to the St. Augustine Fire Station on Malaga Street, was an adopted project of Colin Bingham of Econowaste, Inc., Jacksonville, son-in-law of former St. Augustine Fire Department Captain David M. Ledford. The fountain was dedicated to the Ledford family and to honor all the city’s firefighters. Capt. Ledford retired in 2001 after 32 years of service at the St. Augustine Fire Department.
Contributing to the restoration were Kevin Parryman Stucco and Johnny Rogero, both of St. Augustine .
As a guest at the Alcazar Hotel (today’s City Hall) in the 1890’s you would have played tennis on extensive courts just to the south of the hotel, an area that is today used for parking. Certainly as you left the courts after a hard game you would have found the fountain adjacent to the hotel very refreshing.
Billy Angyalfy, his company Angyalfy Construction, along with Matt Baker, John Valdes, Jim Young and Doug Wiles donated the work and funding for this fountain’s restoration in memory of Billy's son, J. Brent Angyalfy.
Each fountain was in similar condition and required similar restoration work. The estimated cost for each restoration was about $7,000 and in excess of 200 hours of labor. Because of the generosity of the in-kind donations, the funds remaining from the Gala will be put toward enhancements such as lighting and additional landscaping for the fountains.
The benefactors of the Noche de Gala whose support generated interest in the restoration project are The Lightner Museum, John Valdes and Associates, The St. Augustine Record, San Sebastian Winery, Andy’s Taylor Rental, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Joseph W. and Faith K. Tiberio, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Allen and Delores Lastinger, Arthur W. Milam and Teresa de Balmaseda Milam, St. Augustine Family Dentistry, Internal Medical Associates of St. Johns County, P.A., Florida Power & Light, Dixon & Associates Architects, and Hazel Henderson and Alan F. Kay.
In addition to the three restored fountains the others from that era that are in use today are on the grounds of Flagler College and in front of City Hall.
By combining the dollars of the Gala and the donations from generous businesses, three of the century old fountains are flowing once again and landscaping and additional improvements using the enterprise funds are in the near future.