mabel ringling memorial fountain
Through the generous support of the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and the collaborative spirit of The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art (The Ringling), new life has been given to a historic treasure and a public space has been enlivened. Steven High, Executive Director of The Ringling stated, “I congratulate the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation for their completion of the Mable Ringling Memorial Fountain. The Ringling was honored to partner with the Alliance to provide support for their restoration of this Memorial Fountain, originally established in 1936 to honor Mable’s efforts in the beautification of the Sarasota community. I commend the Alliance for the hard work and dedication necessary to restore this important reminder of our community’s history.”
The fountain’s importance lies in its inception. Mable Ringling was the first President of Sarasota's Founder's Circle, and after her death in 1929, the Sarasota Federation of Garden Circles decided to honor Ringling’s service with a memorial fountain and reflection pool. The fountain tribute was placed in Luke Wood Park in 1936. After World War II, the memorial fountain fell into disrepair from lack of maintenance funding. The fountain was subsequently filled with dirt and abandoned in the early 1950s. In 2011, the Alliance received permission for the Sarasota City Commission to renovate the fountain. Working from archival images the excavation began on August 30, 2012. With the expert craftsmanship of Rob Craft, the artistry of Pearse Kelly of Splash Mosaics and many volunteer hours from the Sarasota Military Academy cadets, their families, and community friends, the fountain has been restored to its former glory.
A grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation funded the major construction for the basin. The Ringling collaboration allowed our organization access to an original sculpture for casting the fountain centerpiece. The Ringling also shared their relationship with Florida State University Master Craftsman Studios. Phil Gleason, Studio Manager, documented his students restoring and casting the centerpiece for the fountain and used cutting edge 3-D imaging to recreate the bowl which sits atop the ‘Cluster of Boys.’ Around the perimeter is a ring of ‘Myakka bog iron’ rock. These are original to the fountain and were carefully saved during the excavation. The lions guarding the fountain entrance, originally bequeathed by John Ringling to the project were kindly returned from J.D. Hamel Park to their original place with the permission of The Sarasota County Veterans Commission.
The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County's lent significant support through the John Ringling Towers Grant for Historic Preservation by providing funds for landscaping. Landscape design was provided by board member Martha Horton, retired landscape architect in collaboration with the Sarasota Garden Club. The landscape, irrigation and walkway installation was done by Diaz Landscape Maintenance with plant material donated by Robert Albritton of Albritton's Nursery. Fundraising will continue to provide historical markers in honor of Mable Ringling and Luke Wood.
Other important contributors are the Sarasota Garden Club, the Senior Friendship Center, Charles Stottlemyer, Jesse White of Sarasota Architectural Salvage, Paver Development, Betsy Bagby, Nancy & David Morgan, Ginger Sutton and over one hundred other individuals and companies who have given their time and money to help make this project a reality.The fountain’s importance lies in its inception. Mable Ringling was the first President of Sarasota's Founder's Circle, and after her death in 1929, the Sarasota Federation of Garden Circles decided to honor Ringling’s service with a memorial fountain and reflection pool. The fountain tribute was placed in Luke Wood Park in 1936. After World War II, the memorial fountain fell into disrepair from lack of maintenance funding. The fountain was subsequently filled with dirt and abandoned in the early 1950s.
To view the timeline of the fountain's renovation progress from start to finish, take a few minutes and enjoy this remarkable journey!