Patricia Blackmer, chair member of the Whitewater Landmarks Commission, talks about the Birge Fountain to a group of whitewater citizens at the Irvin Young Library on January 24, 2023.
Josh Stoughton, Assistant Community Editor January 29, 2023 Underwater Pool Lights
As the years go by, landmarks start to get older, and therefore start to need maintenance. Some landmarks, such as national landmarks, get constant maintenance that allows them to constantly look beautiful and attract tourists. However, most landmarks, such as local ones, do not get the funding that national ones do. Therefore, they break down to the point where they have to be removed. Such as these landmarks include a few Whitewater landmarks.
Whitewater, Wisconsin, is home to twenty-seven local landmarks, four of which are currently listed as endangered. These landmarks include the Birge Fountain, Starin Park Tower, the Effigy Mounds, and the White Memorial Building. The Whitewater Landmarks Commission, the committee that nominates and delegates the landmarks, has been pushing for revisions and restorations to these landmarks for the past few years.
“We need to preserve our landmarks,” said landmark commissioner Dan Richardson. “We don’t want them to be turned into parking lots or buildings, so we need to do all we can to make sure that they stay healthy.”
The first landmark that the Whitewater Landmarks Commission has been pushing to restore is the Birge Fountain. Located in front of the White Memorial Building, the fountain stands at seventeen feet tall. Donated in 1903 by Julius Birge and designated as a landmark in 1985, the fountain has two tiers: the first consisting of four cherubs riding dolphins, while the second tier consists of a figure known as the “Lady of the Mist.” The figures were originally made of zinc, but former UW-Whitewater professor John Wenkle recasted them in bronze in 1983 after decades of aging and vandalism broke the fountain down. Now, almost four decades later, the landmark commission is looking to do more repairs to the fountain. These repairs include getting rid of the rust inside the fountain, replacing the lights that surround the interior of the pool, and shining up the statues.
“The fountain is a beautiful thing. Something as pretty and as special as that needs attention,” said Doctor Roy Nosek. “National monuments such as the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial acquire the material needed, but they take care of the material so people can admire the same beauty as when it was created. Whitewater acquired this bronze, but they don’t take care of it.”
The second landmark that the Whitewater Landmarks Commission has been wanting to restore is the Effigy Mounds. Located at Indian Mound Parkway just outside the Whitewater, the Effigy Mounds have been around for over a thousand years. The Effigy Mounds was designated as a local landmark in 1994. There have been volunteers taking care of the landscape such as the flower beds and keeping the grass mowed, but there are some areas, especially on the mounds, where the wildlife is tall and out of control. Besides taking care of wildlife, there is a path that needs to be moved due to changes in laws surrounding effigy mounds. The commission also wants to add a visitor area in front of the mound area to make it more welcoming.
The third landmark that they want to restore is the Starin Park Water Tower. Built in 1889, it is located in Starin Park on top of a hill, standing at over one hundred feet tall. The water tower was designated as a local landmark in 2015. Though the tower is no longer in use due to the construction of the new water tower, it still stands in the park. Some restorations that are needed are cleaning the exterior, rebuilding the top of the wall that surrounds the tower’s base, and replacing the stone belts that wrap around the tower’s base.
The fourth and final landmark that they want to restore is the White Memorial Building. This building was constructed in 1903 and was a gift from Mary F. White to the city of Whitewater. The building used to be the old library before it was moved to the Irvin Young Library, but now it houses the community arts center. The White Memorial Building was designated as a local landmark in 1994. The restorations that this building needs include redoing the roof and some masonry tuckpointing.
In Wisconsin, only thirty restoration projects total are approved to be given a grant to restore important local landmarks. The Whitewater Landmarks Commission asks the citizens of Whitewater that, if one or none of the grants are approved, you help donate money for these projects. To learn more about Whitewater’s local landmarks and what you can do to help restore them, visit their website here .
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