In 1908, the death of his wife Emily left Thomas Waddell with an estate valued at over $55,000.00, but it came with an unusual twist. If Thomas should ever choose to remarry, he would have to donate $10,000 to the City for the creation of a fountain in Central Park. Five years after Mrs. Waddell passed away, her favourite neighbourhood park boasted a fountain constructed of intricately carved stone, features gothic arches, pendants, basins and flying buttresses.
Fast forward to 2004 and the Waddell Fountain was in poor condition. Many of the ornate stones were damaged or missing. The foundation system had failed and the superstructure was listing. An ill-advised coating had been applied to the lower half of the stone work, masking the detail of the stones and colouring them a light greyish tone.
The design stage reviewed various items including the feasibility of leaving the old foundation in place, possible sources for replacement stones, and various methods for coating removal. It was determined that to perform repairs, but leave the fountain on the old foundation, would not be a long-term solution. X-Ray Diffractometry was used and confirmed that the carved stones were an Oolitic limestone, likely originally supplied from quarries in Indiana or Kentucky. Further, the only successful method for the removal of the existing coating was found to be manual stone dressing by a skilled stone mason.
The masterly quality of this workmanship is evidenced by the smooth lines, fine details and retained symmetry. Without knowledge of the history of the Waddell fountain, one would ever guess that all of the lower stones had been manually worked to remove a tenaciously bonded coating.
The limestone fountain and broad granite steps were completely dismantled. A new foundation of concrete slab, beams, and piles was created. Then the masons re-installed the stone to bring the old fountain back to life. Finishing touches will be new lighting and plumbing to make the fountain operable once more.
The Waddell Fountain Restoration was completed on time and on budget. These days, in the midst of a construction boom, both of these attributes are indeed remarkable. It is a landmark that looks both back, to the early days of Winnipeg’s urban growth and forward to a beautiful park setting in the heart of the City.