Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Christensen Fountain

Ever wondered about that strange rounded stone design with a Viking ship and the Danish coat of arms in front of it, in Louisville's Cherokee Park? So have I.

According to the official Louisville government website:

The Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy, in partnership with Metro Louisville and with the support of lead donors, has completed a comprehensive restoration of Christensen Fountain in Louisville’s Cherokee Park. The memorial to Paulina Keofoed Christensen, mother of Margrethe Christensen, completed 1901, is on Ledge Road, about a quarter mile from the Lexington Road entrance. The central feature is a carved stone watering vessel for riding and carriage horses of the day, modeled after a Viking warship. The fountain as a whole was meant to suggest the memorial stone piles erected in Scandinavia during the Viking Age. It was designed by the prominent Louisville firm of Clarke and Loomis, in consultation with John C. Olmsted in 1900.

Cherokee Park’s Christensen Fountain is one of those landmarks that has the power to fascinate. Few who pass it don’t stop and wonder, “what is that?” But time had diminished the original monument. Previous restoration campaigns, while conducted with the best resources of their day, lacked the kind of thorough and in-depth evaluation and planning that the Olmsted Conservancy has made a hallmark of its projects.

Restoring this prominent landmark in Cherokee Park was undertaken thanks to the support and leadership of park neighbors. In spring 2001 the entire Christensen monument received a two day, on-site evaluation by conservator Virginia Naude of Philadelphia. Her evaluation concluded that the majority of the original dragon boat was actually a concrete replacement and most of the sculptural detail had been entirely lost. The concrete and steel patchwork that had been undertaken during the previous decades had not been faithful to the original design. Local sculptor and stonemason, Albert T. Nelson, was commissioned by the Conservancy to recreate the original water basin and completed the carving off site in late 2002.

I also found an old postcard image online that, unfortunately, doesn't really show much detail of how of the real ship sculpture looked back in the day:

I'm trying to figure out why Paulina Christensen, who was a teacher at the Girls' High School, merited such a lavish memorial, but hey, more power to her.

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