A forgotten piece of Sarasota history partially buried at a major crossroads will receive an extensive makeover this year.
The Mable Ringling Memorial Fountain was installed in Luke Wood Park, at the corner of U.S. routes 41 and 301 in 1936, but soon after World War II, was left ignored and eventually partially buried under decades of dirt.
The Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation is out to change that and on Aug. 30, an excavation crew from C&M Construction with Conlon & Jackson Concrete dug out the fountain's basin to start the road back to its former glory.
It took more than four hours to haul away 60 years worth of dirt, preparing the fountain's plumbing and pipes to be examined.
Amazingly, according to the Alliance, the basin appears to be in good condition.
"A few stress fractures along the walls and the drainage holes made intentionally when the fountain was abandoned will be a simple repair and confirms that the project budget is realistic," the Alliance wrote in a news release. The next step is to receive approvals from the City of Sarasota.
Mable Ringling, the husband of circus great John Ringling, was known for her involvement with charities and local organizations, being a charter member of the Whitfield Country Club and a member of the Sarasota Woman's Club. Her roles were numerous beyond that, serving as vice-president for many of her husband's companies, entertaining celebrities on Lido Beach and donating the Ca'd'Zan and the John and Mable Ringling Musuem to the state.
After he death in 1929, the Sarasota Federation of Garden Circles wanted to honor Mable's service by building a memorial fountain and reflection pool, according to Sarasota Alliance. In 1936, the fountain was installed, but when World War II came along, maintenance funding was cut to focus on the war efforts, and was eventually filled in with dirt and left abandoned in the 1950s, according to Sarasota Alliance.
The Sarasota City Commission in 2011 allowed the Alliance to renovate the fountain, kicking off a fundraising campaign. The project will not rely on taxpayer funds, according to the Alliance, but solely on donations, grants and in-kind contributions of services, equipment, expertise, supplies, landscaping, lighting and statuary castings. An endowment fund will be established to provide for critical maintenance of the fountain in perpetuity.
Committee members for the fountain include Dorothea Calvert, Larry Kelleher, Ron McCarty, Nancy Morgan and Joyce Waterbury. The late Don Smally also served on the committee.
Smally's memory will be a part of the new fountain, according to the Alliance.
"Don was a true visionary and philanthropist, who loved Sarasota and its historical heritage," the Alliance wrote in a press release. "The Mable Ringling Fountain project was dear to him, and he worked tirelessly to ensure its success."
Contributions to the fountain have been made to honor his memory and longstanding service to the Alliance, Sarasota, and the State of Florida. Don was the founding principal of Smally, Wellford & Nalven, Inc. Consulting Engineers and Land Surveyors SWN, which was instrumental in developing stormwater design standards used throughout Florida, pursued engineering and financing solutions to some of the region’s biggest development challenges and helped create the first developments of regional impact, starting with The Meadows in Sarasota.