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Stetson Law works to preserve its historic fountains

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Stetson Law works to preserve its historic fountains

With help from a Historic Preservation Grant, Stetson University College of Law is in the process of restoring three ornate fountains crafted over a century ago and installed in the Plaza Mayor and the Granary Tower.

A circular concrete slab lies in the middle of a courtyard covered in soil.
Restoration of Stetson Law’s iconic fountains was well underway in the fall of 2023.

Preliminary work has already started, and the restoration is expected to be completed by May 2024.

Guided by National Park Service Preservation Briefs and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, the process involves cleaning, documenting, removing, restoring, and re-installing the ornate tiles that constitute the fountains. In the event a tile cannot be preserved, contractor Mizner Industries will replicate it with utmost precision.

The project will also include replacing aging hardware beneath the fountains.

Fountains of Historic Significance 

The view of a bare wishing well-style fountain looking south from Stetson Law's Plaza Mayor.
Stetson Law’s beloved “wishing well” fountain was also restored in Fall of 2023.

Designed in the Mediterranean Revival style by architect Richard Kiehnel, the Stetson Law campus was constructed by the George A. Fuller Company of New York City, which also built Manhattan’s Flatiron Building and the Lincoln Memorial.

Prior to serving as the main Stetson Law campus, it was the site of the Florida Military Academy from 1932 to 1951 and the grand Rolyat Hotel prior to that.

Significant people associated with property include sports legends Walter Hagen and “Babe” Ruth; producer Sam Spiegel and actor George Peppard; Florida State Supreme Court Justice and Stetson Law Dean Harold Sebring; Wm. Reece Smith, Jr.; and presidents of three Florida collegiate institutions: Doak Campbell (Florida State University), J. Ollie Edmunds (Stetson), and Hamilton Holt (Rollins).

A Beneficial Endeavor

The project will initially create about 20 jobs and spur economic development through heritage tourism.

A black-and-white image of a large fountain in a circular room lined by a wide spiral staircase.
The fountain in Granary Tower, which was restored in 2023, in a photo taken in 1927.

Restoring the fountains to a fully functioning state will enhance the sense of place on campus, which is often cited among the reasons prospective students choose Stetson Law – and the reason so many choose Stetson Law as a venue for weddings and other milestone events.

The value extends to Stetson classrooms. In Land Use Law courses, faculty discuss the growing importance of historic preservation laws. Like Stetson Law – which was the site of events such as a famous contract signing between Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees during its days as a luxury hotel – many of Florida’s historic structures were built in the 1920s.

The campus, fountains and all, is a striking example of adaptive re-use of old buildings.

When the project is complete, the fountains will add to the beautiful, relaxing atmosphere on the Stetson Law Gulfport campus.

The Latest of Multiple Restorations

The current projects aren’t the first fountain restorations to take place. In 2020, it all began with the fountain in center of the Plaza Mayor courtyard. This seven-month endeavor, an official historic restoration, was no small task.

A worker stands under a shade tent in the fountain in the center of Plaza Mayor as it was being restored.
After months of work, the fountain in the heart of Plaza Mayor was restored to its full glory in 2021.

The images in each quadrant of the fountain were cut out, tiles removed from slab, cleaned, and restored. Other tiles could not to salvaged, so, bisque was imported from Italy and hand painted to match the original tile, baked, and then waterproofed. All the painting was done by the same woman, meaning no two tiles are exactly alike, just as was true of the originals. RLA Conservation of Art & Architecture in Miami, a state certified tile restoration company, oversaw the work.

The result?

A fully functioning, delightfully ornate centerpiece for all to enjoy.

Kate Bradshaw is the assistant director of media relations at Stetson University College of Law

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