The John Welsh Memorial Fountain in West Fairmount Park has a rich history. Here’s what we’ve learned so far, and how Fairmount Park Conservancy is trying to build upon its future.
The historic Welsh Fountain dates back to 1887, a decade after the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 held in Philadelphia. The fountain was named after John Welsh, one of the first park commissioners who had big dreams for the public parks in Philadelphia.
Welsh also donated his own land to West Fairmount Park and was the father of Herbet Welsh, a leading Indigenous rights activist and one of the founders of the Indian Rights Association of Philadelphia.
The Fountain and accompanying public space previously served as a gathering and celebration space for local neighborhood residents, actualizing the dream Welsh himself had for the space.
Photo from Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Archives
Both the fountain and its garden haven’t been actively used since around the 1970’s. However, many folks in the Parkside community remember visiting and using the site in their youth and are excited to participate in the process of reimagining it.
Graphic from Nelson Byrd Woltz
So what can we do?
This summer, Fairmount Park Conservancy worked with Nelson Byrd Woltz, a landscape architecture firm, to research the history of the Welsh Fountain to learn more about how the landscape has changed over time, and to help organize events for the community to share their voice.
As Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation work to reactivate the fountain, we want the insights and vision of community members for the fountain to be at the heart of the project. That’s why, on Thursday July 13th, we hosted our first engagement event: Reimagining the Welsh Fountain. Community members learned about the project, shared ideas, prototyped designs with Tiny WPA, and enjoyed free pretzels and water ice. Afterwards, we invited them to share their thoughts in a survey, which will be used to chart the best path for the area.
We have another activation and community engagement event planned for September 9th from 10 AM to 12 PM at the fountain before sharing the results of our engagement later this year. There will be hands-on activities, water play, feedback shared from ideas, water ice, snacks, and drinks!
Community members shared memories during and after the July engagement event, and we are so excited to hear more as we approach our September event.
The feedback received from community members so far lets us know that many people are excited at the prospect of the fountain being turned back on, and other potential additions to the area. Lots of Parkside residents hold fond memories of days when the fountain was a place for people to gather together.
You or any other Parkside residents you know are welcome to join us on September 9th. We look forward to learning more from you!
All Parkside residents are welcome to join and local community members tabling to share their own projects is strongly encouraged. If you are interested in tabling at the event, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about our September 9th event, tap here to learn more!