In Helena’s Hill Park, there is now a new concrete base at the former site of the Confederate Memorial Fountain.
The site has sat empty for more than two years, after city leaders removed the fountain in August 2017. In the next few weeks, though, the public will begin to see progress, as pieces of a new replacement fountain are put into place.
The Equity Fountain Project, a group of artists, architects and other community members has been working since 2018 to put together a new fountain that would showcase values like equality, tolerance and justice. They eventually selected a design by California artists James Dinh and Michael Stutz, called the “Sphere of Interconnectedness.”
In January, the Helena City Commission voted to accept the Equity Fountain as a gift and place it in Hill Park.
Ron Waterman, who chairs the project, said there have been some delays, as they had to do more work than they initially expected to get the site ready. In the past few weeks, crews removed stone uprights that had been at the side of the old fountain, replaced those uprights with new granite curbing and poured a larger concrete base for the new fountain to sit on.
There are two remaining large pieces of the fountain: a millstone which was crafted in Maine and is being shipped to Helena this week, and a roughly four-foot stainless steel sphere which is currently being fabricated in California.
“It’s sort of replicating what so many of our pioneers did; they came from other places and they congregated here,” Waterman said.
When the millstone arrives, it will be placed in storage until the sphere is finished. Waterman said they hope to have both pieces in Helena – and possibly begin installing them – by the first week of November.
“We’re probably not going to have water on it this year, but the major pieces will be here and in place so that we can enjoy them during the winter,” he said. “Then, next spring, we’ll hook the water up and we’ll have a functioning fountain.”
“This site is one that will attract a number of people as they drive by on Park Avenue, on Benton Avenue – they’ll be able to see this site, they’ll be able to enjoy it,” he said.
The Equity Fountain Project has been trying to raise about $110,000 to pay for the new fountain and to start a fund for future maintenance. Waterman said, so far, they have collected around $70,000. Anyone interested in donating can contact the Montana Community Foundation, which has an account for the Equity Fountain Project.
Waterman thanked the community members who have already donated money or materials.
“I think it’s going to be something that all of Helena can be proud of,” he said.