Story of the Mary Dillon Fountain, Klutho Park
Benjamin and Mary Dillon were early Springfield residents. For several years prior to the 1901 fire, they lived in one of the beautiful, now-vanished, Eastlake houses on East 2nd Street. Ca. 1899, they built a mansion on the northwest corner of Silver and West Third Streets, opposite the Hogans Creek floodplain. Sadly, in those days the area was swampy and wild, with overgrown vegetation, trash, and wandering animals; Mary saw the need for redevelopment. To this end, on May 4th, 1904 she called together several ladies from her community and explained her intentions. From this meeting, the Springfield Improvement Association (SIA) was born. Records in our archives document how this group successfully concentrated their efforts on the area along Hogans Creek. Over a period of three years, the creek channel was dredged and improved, and low areas were filled, reducing the marshlands. Springfield Park (now Klutho) was established and became as one of the prettiest in Florida. A charming bandstand was built which offered weekly brass band concerts.
This is our beautiful fountain today. Mary Dillon and those early ladies would be thrilled!
SIA minutes record Mary Dillon’s passing in 1907, and the group decided to erect a memorial in her honor. They chose to place a fountain in the park and secured the services of local sculptor, Charles Adrian Pillars. Pillars used a Renaissance sculpture and fountain in Florence, Italy (Putto with Dolphin, by Andrea del Verrocchio, 1479, in the Palazzo Vecchio), as the basis for his design. It is amazing that this monument has survived its somewhat tragic past. In 2003, the SIA decided to restore the fountain. Getting funding, restoration permission, and final design work was not easy; but after three years, the glory was back. Most of the restoration funding came from the sale of six donated lots.
SIAA has now restored the fountain twice, for a total cost of $143,500. Maintenance costs are ongoing, since we are still responsible for the upkeep of this beautiful artwork. We are grateful to Michael Trautmann for his devotion to protecting and maintaining this precious object. We recently added a small fence as a protective barrier. Part of the fundraising was from the sale of the memorial bricks surrounding the fountain’s base. They are still available for purchase. SIAA has achieved grants in the past, which enabled the fencing and extensive improvements of Confederate Park, and the establishment of our dog park.
The original dedication, in March 1910. Jacksonville Mayor William S. Jordan and Mary Dillon’s grandson, Dillon Hartridge, did the honors. Note the SIA ladies, at the back right of picture.
The fountain during the 1980s. The Putto had been removed. Sadly, during this period the fountain was pushed over. This caused the bowl to break and its pieces were lost.
When the fountain was pushed over, the pieces fell onto the grass. All but two pieces were found and returned to SIA. Over time, layers of paint were added to the remains, even to the marble! Fountain above in 2003.
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