The Wizard of Belle Isle’s Scott Fountain

 

A Cheat, A Liar, a Cad, But A Damn Fine Fountain, photo by Derek Farr

A Cheat, A Liar, a Cad, But A Damn Fine Fountain, photo by Derek Farr

Sherri Welch has a great feature (with video) in Crain’s Detroit entitled Underneath Belle Isle with the Wizard of Scott Fountain:

Far, far below Belle Isle, in a domed-ceiling building few know exist, Robert Carpenter keeps watch, switching levers, hitting buttons and adjusting valves like a modern-day Wizard of Oz.

But his motions aren’t designed to produce an apparition.

They’re focused on producing a plume of water that jets 20, 30, 40, 50 feet or higher into the air, along with countless other smaller bursts of water.

Carpenter is the unofficial caretaker of Belle Isle’s massive, antique James Scott Memorial Fountain.

It’s not a paying gig for him, but, truly, a labor of love.

Carpenter and his team did, restoring the pearly sheen to its marble basin, sculpted faces, animals and all five tiers.

Being the engineer he is, Carpenter couldn’t stop there.

He began scrutinizing the antique valves, pipes and drains, practically living in the domed structure under the fountain as he prepared it for operation through maintenance that included gingerly flushing its corroded, cast iron pipes and rushing to clean the resulting red water from the fountain’s marble bowl.

Read on for more at Crain’s and definitely check out the video – very cool to see what’s below this beautiful Michigan landmark!

Derek is one of my favorite Detroit photographers, and if you like his photos you can head over to his Flickr page for information about how to get them. In addition to taking great pictures, he often includes a brief story of the subject as is the case with this photo:

A Cheat, A Liar, a Cad, But A Damn Fine Fountain

Not exactly loved by all during his time on this planet, James Scott inherited a fortune from his real-estate-baron Father. He attempted to spend the majority of it during his lifetime, Building a large house ( it wasn’t large enough, he wanted his neighbors house as well. The neighbor declined so James built a huge addition to the front and top of his house, blocking out the sun for 3/4 of the day to get back at him ) , throwing large Gambling Parties oblivious to the amount he may have lost, suing any business partners ( or competitors ) that attempted to move in on what James thought should be his. He was described even by his friends as vindictive.

When he died in 1910 he left his sizeable fortune to the city under the specification that a memorial be created to honor him. It took 10 years for the city to agree to use the money for this purpose, and another 5 to complete this fountain – located on Belle Isle in Detroit. It was designed by Cass Gilbert and completed in 1925.

View Derek’s Scott Fountain photos or settle back for more fountain and more Belle Isle in his Belle Isle slideshow.

There’s more Belle Isle and more sculpture on Michigan in Pictures.

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