At long last: Look Park begins construction on new entrance fountain

  • Tim Luippold, who works for Keiter Builders in Florence, carries a form on Monday that will be used to reconstruct the walls of the fountain at the entrance to Look Park. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Steve Knapp, who works for Keiter Builders, excavates an area during the renovation of the Look Park fountain on Monday. The project includes refurbishing the elliptical pool and curved masonry walls, the steps leading to the fountain, the stone pillars and the iron gates.  GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Steve Knapp, who works for Keiter Builders, excavates an area during the renovation of the Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park fountain on Monday. Above is a picture of the old fountain installed 87 years ago. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A picture of the old Memorial Fountain at Look Park. Look Memorial Park

For the Gazette
Thursday, September 21, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — An iconic fountain that has greeted visitors to Look Park since it opened 87 years ago is getting a new look this fall, a long-desired renovation and rebuild of the deteriorating structure.

“This fountain has been an icon for everyone driving down Route 9 for a long time, so it’s important that it be kept up,” Shawn Porter, the park’s executive director, said.

Porter, who has directed Look Park since 2013, said the idea of renovating Memorial Founation has come up at every board of trustees meeting he’s ever attended, but hefty estimates for the work kept it on hold.

“It was definitely falling apart. The walls were starting to crack, and the old fountain rained water all over the brick wall of the fountain, causing further damage to the structure. It’s actually in the deed of trust that the park needs to have a nice entrance — which is where the fountain is — but it was just not possible with estimates over $600,000,” Porter said.

Then Berkshire Design Group Inc. and Keiter Builders, both of Northampton, stepped in this year with a proposal to design and build a cheaper — at about $350,000 — safer and more environmentally friendly fountain.

“It was important to us to involve companies that have great reputations for working in the community,” Porter said. “At the same time, Berkshire Design Group and Keiter understood and appreciated that we are nonprofit and independently run. So, they worked hard to find areas of the project where we could cut costs. It’s definitely something that is vital to the park. It’s still a little more than we wanted to spend, but we knew it had to be done and we took on the challenge.”

The work involves constructing a new fountain and pool and making major renovations to the existing structure. The fountain was designed by the Berkshire Design Group Inc. and is being built by Keiter Builders, both of Northampton.

The fountain’s pool had been several feet deep, presenting a potential danger to small children. The new fountain’s pool will be about 4 inches deep, and the pump will be less powerful and less likely to splash water onto other parts of the fountain, reducing the risk of damage. The new pool will recycle more water than the old one, and will require less “topping off” with water, Porter said.

In addition to adding a new pool and pump system, Keiter Builders is refurbishing the fountain’s masonry, walls and stone pillars, as well as the iron gates around the fountain and the steps leading up to the fountain.

Porter says that park visitors will notice the fountain does not spray water quite as high, but that almost everything else will be the same visually.

“It will look very much like it did,” Porter said. “We want to retain the historic back wall, as well as the beauty of the fountain’s look. The goal is to have the wall that’s behind the fountain, the plaque with Frank Newhall Look’s name and everything brick to look the same.”

The park, including the fountain, was opened to the public in 1930 as a memorial to Frank Newhall Look, a CEO who led the Florence-based health care and toothbrush business Prophylactic Brush Company during the early 20th century.

Look’s wife, Fannie Burr Look, donated the park to the city, providing the park’s land as well as money for construction and maintenance on the park. She also set up a trust fund that would help with the park’s upkeep.

The city owns Look Park, but it is operated independently as a nonprofit, receiving no money from the local, state or federal government.

According to Porter, all of the park’s funding — including money for the new fountain — comes from visitor fees, donations and grants. Look Park did apply for money from the Community Preservation Act to fund the fountain’s rebuilding, but the request was denied.

Throughout the fall, Look Park will ask the public for donations after taking on such a large investment, but it was the partnering companies, Porter notes, that ensured the project would be priced reasonably.

Work on the fountain, currently in the demolition phase, began on Sept. 5 and is expected to conclude by Dec. 1 if weather permits. Next spring, Look Park will turn the fountain on and let the water flow for the first time.