McKim Fountain Restoration
Constructed between 1888 and 1895, the original McKim building—designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead & White—featured a courtyard and an elegant fountain with a simple, single-jet spray. The bronze sculpture of Bacchante and Infant by Frederick MacMonnies was given to the library by McKim himself in 1896 and caused controversy at that time due to its nude, dancing figure. Over time, the mosaic tile in the basin of the fountain and the concrete slab below suffered water damage, resulting in the shutdown of the fountain in recent years. Not the best look if you were planning a wedding here! Finegold Alexander played an integral role in the McKim Fountain restoration and improvements. The effort included installing a waterproofing membrane; restoring the water basin; streamlining and updating both the plumbing and lighting design; and removing unsightly cords and fixtures from the previous installation. Would someone please cue the music for the next wedding ceremony at the BPL? The McKim Fountain is once again ready to surprise and delight!
(Photo credits: Historic b/w photo of courtyard at Boston Public Library from the Boston Pictorial Archive/Boston Public Library. Link to Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collections Online: https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:p2677h605; Historic color postcard of courtyard at Boston Public Library from the Methuen Historic Collection at Nevins Memorial Library. Link to Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collections Online: https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:nk322m285)
Completed in 1895, the original McKim Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. At its heart is a welcoming open courtyard with a promenade arcade similar to the Palazzo della Cancelleria, a Renaissance palace in Rome dating to 1513.
The marble mosaic tiles on the floor of the basin were thin-set on a concrete slab and were lifting from the slab in multiple locations. This led to deterioration and water leakage, necessitating their replacement.
The work involved constructing a concrete curb to replace and conceal the plumbing and lighting infrastructure required to operate the fountain. This streamlining of the mechanical systems showcases the sculpture and surrounding jets of water to full effect.