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.
Preliminary work has already started, and the restoration is expected to be completed by May 2024. See a live stream of the project here.
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
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.
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.
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.
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