SALEM — Nathaniel Hawthorne, were he alive today, could breathe a sigh of relief.
The Salem Redevelopment Authority has no plans to take down the fountain on the Essex Street pedestrian mall that was erected about 40 years ago at the site of the town pump Hawthorne immortalized in his short story, “A Rill From the Town Pump.”
To the contrary, the SRA last night endorsed the conceptual design of an improvement plan for a section of the well-worn mall, which not only retains but restores the famous Salem Town Pump Fountain in Townhouse Square.
The possibility of razing the old fountain, located along Washington Street across from the “Bewitched” statue, had come up at several public meetings.
What little controversy there was last night surrounded plans to restore the fountain by making changes to it. Among the alterations planned are removal of both the concrete base and the pool, or stone-lined basin, that fills with bubbles when pranksters dump in soap.
Tim Love, a principal with Utile, a Boston landscape architecture firm hired by the city, outlined plans to improve the lighting and restore the bronze relief on a fountain sculpture that has an inscription and likeness of Hawthorne. These changes and others, including fixing two public drinking fountains, will draw more attention to the fountain, according to Love.
“We’re going to create a much better context for the fountain,” he said, “which will make it much better loved.”
Andrew Carr, a resident of the McIntire Historic District, said he was concerned that no mention had been made of the mall’s original landscape architect, the late John F. Collins, who won awards for his mall design.
Carr contended that the water basin the city wants to remove creates “the sense of a spring” at a spot where there once was a town spring.