Horton Plaza Park Fountain To Be Restored

One of San Diego's oldest civic landmarks is about to get a modern overhaul.

The iconic, domed fountain in Horton Plaza Park has seen better days since it was built in 1910 to honor the founder of downtown Alonzo Horton, a year after Horton died at the age of 96.

Restoration crews say the design by architect Irvin Gill has is first-rate, although the materials and waterworks have eroded over decades of neglect.

It'll get "kid-glove" handling in the process of being dismantled for material upgrades, and retrofitting meant to preserve it for much longer than it's already stood.

"We even retained a conservator for this, because of how important this is to the city of San Diego,” says Troy Parry, project manager for the Pomona-based Spectra Company. “So what we're going is sparing no expense getting after it, and preserving everything we can."

The fountain was built for $10,000 -- a gift from banker Louis Wilde, later to become mayor of San Diego.

The restoration will cost $450,000, part of a $17 million project to create a new urban park on Broadway between Third and Fourth Avenues that'll open late next year.

"It's a fantastic monument,” Parry said in an interview Thursday on the construction site just north of the Westfield Horton Plaza shopping mall. “They spared no expense."

While redevelopment law may be "history" in California, the fountain’s history is secure and its future seems bright.

"The research we've conducted indicates that the fountain is the earliest piece acquired by the city of San Diego for its civic art collection,” said Dana Springs, executive director of the city’s Commission on Arts and Culture. “It provides an iconic image for this area, and that's very valuable not only to our community, but the city of San Diego's art collection."

But it hasn't been an artistic success for a long time, which has tarnished the legacy of Alonzo Horton, memorialized by way of a bronze statue located across Third Avenue, in front of the mall’s main entrance.

Horton came here from San Francisco in 1867, and bought up 900 acres in what was known as "New Town."

He turned it into downtown, a hub of commerce and government.

Across Broadway circle from Horton’s statue is a bronze casting of the late shopping mall developer Ernie Hahn Sr.

Hahn -- with political backing from then-Mayor Pete Wilson, whose statue stands west of Hahn’s and Horton’s on the NBC building’s plaza -- kickstarted downtown redevelopment in the 1980s.

Will Lee Brown, a downtown musician who's strummed guitars for passersby for decades, said the fountain's restoration is long overdue.

It figures to be a gateway photo backdrop for locals and tourists, flocking to the long-envisioned Horton Plaza Park that'll boast a host of events and venues to further promote the area as a destination.

"It's going to be one of the main points of entertainment downtown," Brown told NBC 7 in a lunch-hour interview Thursday. "You're right in the heart of downtown and you're getting, especially, the mall right here, the park right there and it's amazing. So I think they'll get good 'bang for the buck.’”

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