The Highland County Courthouse lawn has been home to two fountains over the years – one at the turn of the century, and one later in the early 1900s, according to local historian Jean Wallis – and there has been conversation over the past two years or so about installing a new one.
Wallis told The Times-Gazette she’s not sure when the first fountain was built, but it did grace the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was pretty large, had a simple design, and stayed relatively clean, she said. For unknown reasons, though, Wallis said that fountain was removed in the early 20th century, and at some point replaced with a smaller, more ornate fountain depicting a boy standing in the middle holding a boot.
Over the years, however, that fountain got to be so dirty, officials decided to get rid of it.
“All the old timers would sit around the benches at the courthouse and chew tobacco, and they would spit it into the fountain,” she said. “It got to be such a nuisance… It looked horrible.”
The fountain was eventually removed and sold to Myers Cooper, the 51st governor of Ohio. Myers was a Republican and a prominent Cincinnati businessman, Wallis said, and the fountain ended up on the front lawn of his home there.
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings told The Times-Gazette there has been talk of possibly installing a new fountain, although he doesn’t know when that might happen.
“Bob and Ann Bagshaw approached me about two years ago, and they said they would offer to build a fountain for the City of Hillsboro, so we’ve been working towards that end,” he said. “It’s had some stops and starts – we’re trying to be mindful of the cost, because really, it’s their money, they’re paying for it.”
If a new fountain is built, Hastings said, it would be in the same spot the previous two were located.
“The county gave permission for a small piece of land that the fountain would sit on,” he said, adding that the city would be responsible for building and maintaining it. Hastings said maintenance costs would be “minimal” and would come from the city’s street operations fund.
Currently, Hastings said the city is looking to find foundation stone that matches the courthouse.
“We want it to be a fountain that historically and aesthetically works,” he said. “I’m honored and grateful that the Bagshaws want to give back to the city and do it in this way, and I think it’ll be a great addition to uptown, especially with a lot of the other uptown redevelopment we’re trying to do.”
Highland County Board of Commissioners President Shane Wilkin said he likes the idea.
“It’s a very neat project that kind of hearkens back to the historic side of Hillsboro,” he said. “It can give us an additional focal point uptown that represents who we are.”
But Wallis said the fate of the boy with the boot speaks for itself.
“Times have changed,” she said. “They’ll probably be throwing paper cups and other stuff in the fountain. I can’t agree with another one. They had two already, they shouldn’t have a third one… I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.