Two-year project slated to begin this fall, will preserve historic details
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
EAST MARLBOROUGH — The iconic fountains at Longwood Gardens are about to get a 21st Century makeover, but fans of the historic landmark shouldn’t worry: most of the upgrades planned over the two-year renovation project won’t change the historic character of the site.
The township’s Board of Supervisors approved an application Monday night to start demolition work this fall — which in truth will be more like a careful deconstruction of the fountain and its elaborate stone work. Longwood hired noted architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, which specializes in historic renovations and has worked on projects as varied as the U.S. Capitol to New York City’s City Hall.
Lawrence Gutterman, an associate partner with Beyer Blinder Belle, walked supervisors through the plan — which intends to preserve the history and beauty, while improving function, safety and access for patrons.
Gutterman said much of the six-acre site is in “structural disrepair” with various portions of the fountain area closed for some two decades. Some areas date to the original Pierre S. du Pont 1930s construction, while others date from a 1950s renovation.
The water system is prone to leakage, while the lighting system is so out of date that parts much be scavanged to keep it in operation. Both will be entirely replaced in the renovation. Also, tunnels will be run beneath to improve maintenance access.
Each piece will be carefully tagged and — if possible — reused when everything is put back together. Some of the 1930s vintage stone work may have to be replaced because of wear and damage, but the hope is that most of it will be able to be reused, Gutterman said.
The loggia on the south side of the garden will be rebuilt with a new grotto behind. A 1970s-vintage building on the western side of the south wall will be removed.
In addition to being able to replumb the entire facility (and build a new, underground pump facility directly behind the existing pumphouse, which will be maintained and used as exhibit space, with the historic pumps preserved), many areas long out of service to the public because of safety concerns will be reopened, and new lighting and water capabilities will be added to make for more dynamic shows in the future. All of the old functions, Gutterman said, will be retained.
With new accessways and an elevator, the entire site will be made handicap accessible.
Longwood Gardens plans to formally announce the renovation project later this year, with work starting this fall, with likely completion in late 2016 and a formal opening in early 2017.