Sunday, May 07, 2000

Residents rave over renovation

By Sara J. Bennett
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] The fountain is unveiled Saturday.
(AP photo)
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        The Genius of Water atop Cincinnati's beloved Tyler Davidson Fountain once again stretches her arms in embrace of downtown, her palms pouring water over the trademark caption “To the People of Cincinnati.”

        The fountain was unveiled Saturday at a rededication celebration that mingled citizen protest and spurts of rain with fun and enthusiasm for the refurbishing of Cincinnati's most recognizable landmark.

        Skies cleared just in time for dignitaries to pull a white tarpaulin from the fountain at 8:20 p.m. A crowd of nearly 10,000 cheered at the sight of the statue's skin transformed from crusty green to dignified bronze, her hands spilling water for the first time since last May.

[photo] Watre streams from the fountain again.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        “That's the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time,” said Cody Enneking, 26, a new downtown resident who moved to Cincinnati from North Carolina.

        “And we've been through the mountains,” added fiancee Jenna Sprandel, 25.

        During the unveiling ceremony, a handful of protesters from a group called the Citizens Police Review Panel Enforcement Coalition shouted over speeches by Mayor Charlie Luken and Gov. Bob Taft.

        The group wants city leaders to implement recommendations made by Cincinnati's Citizens Police Review Panel following its investigation of the 1999 fatal police shooting of unarmed motorist Michael Carpenter. The panel found the shooting unjustified and made several recommendations for changes in the way police handle deadly-force situations.

        Saturday's protesters, one carrying a sign with a photograph from Mr. Carpenter's autopsy, shouted for Mr. Luken to apologize to Mr. Carpenter's family.

        Before Saturday's ceremony, Mr. Luken told the Enquirer: “The city has, and I have, expressed condolences to the family of Michael Carpenter. That has been done and redone. We are in the midst of a lawsuit that is being negotiated, and anything else is inappropriate.”

        The unveiling ceremony highlighted an afternoon of celebration that continues today. People flocked to Fountain Square and adjacent streets for a party that city leaders billed as hosted by the fountain itself.

        They came to remember: first kisses, childhood shopping trips downtown with grandparents, the fountain in shabbier days before the city rallied to restore it. And they came simply to celebrate.

        “It's history,” said Odie Morrison, 72. The North Avondale resident grew up with the fountain in Cincinnati. “I'm glad to get it back. It has been missed.”

        The fountain, created in Germany at the request of merchant Henry Probasco in honor of his brother-in-law Tyler Davidson, was dedicated in 1871. A restoration effort was made in 1971, but it became apparent in later decades that more would need to be done if the fountain were to remain a working city landmark.

        Volunteers and city leaders raised $3 million for the fountain's restoration and future maintenance. The fountain disappeared from view throughout the winter and early spring as workers uncovered its bronze surface and restored its water works.

        On Saturday, the Genius of Water was ready to model her mak eover.

        She towered over the square under afternoon heat, obscured by the billowing white tarpaulin while people in shorts and tank tops sat expectantly along the walls underneath the fountain.

        Kim and Ubaldo Scardicchio of Maineville brought their 2-year-old son Bryant to witness the unveiling.

        “This is one of our favorite spots,” Mrs. Scardicchio said. “I've been in Cincinnati since I was 12 years old, I've had my picture taken here year after year, so it's nice to have another memory.”

        Fountains are particularly dear to the Scardicchio family because they lived in Italy, where the monuments are an integral part of a community's history.

        The Tyler Davidson Fountain makes people feel at home, Mrs. Scardicchio said.

        “I like the fact that her arms are spread wide open because it represents a moment of welcome to the city. I think Cincinnati doesn't get enought credit for the openness of its people.”

        Saturday's crowd grew after the Reds game, when hundreds of baseball fans streamed up the hill to join the fountain festivities.

        Throughout the event, the skies took opportunities to do a little water giving of their own. Light showers started around 7 p.m. but cleared just in time for the unveiling and fireworks that followed.

        “You're almost in tears when you see the job they've done (on the restoration),” said Carol Shoemaker, 62, of downtown. “Especially, when you've been coming down here and you know what it was. It was beautiful then, but, oh, they've done a gorgeous job.”

        The ceremony was an opportu nity for people of all ages to reminisce about what the fountain has meant to them.

        Craig Rouse, 30, of Milford, celebrated his bachelor party on the square Saturday with his buddies.

        “I came here for my sophomore prom, and the first time I kissed a girl was by that fountain,” said pal Rodney Drinnon, 32, of downtown.

        “Whenever I train a new salesperson, they always want to come see the fountain because they've seen it on WKRP in Cincinnati,” Mr. Rouse said. “It's the center of society. It's where everybody comes when something good happens.

RADEL: All's right again: Fountain's back
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