Glen Ellyn's historic horse trough will be refurbished -- and replicated

  • Glen Ellyn trustees have commissioned an Iowa foundry to create a full-size replica of the village's historic horse trough, shown in an image taken around 1907. The new bronze trough will replace the original, deteriorating structure downtown.

    Glen Ellyn trustees have commissioned an Iowa foundry to create a full-size replica of the village's historic horse trough, shown in an image taken around 1907. The new bronze trough will replace the original, deteriorating structure downtown. Courtesy of the Glen Ellyn Historical Society

  • Glen Ellyn officials still have to decide where to display the original horse trough, donated to the village by a businessman more than a century ago, after the structure is refurbished.

      Glen Ellyn officials still have to decide where to display the original horse trough, donated to the village by a businessman more than a century ago, after the structure is refurbished. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Glen Ellyn's horse trough at Crescent Boulevard and Main Street is made of a cast iron prone to corrosion.

      Glen Ellyn's horse trough at Crescent Boulevard and Main Street is made of a cast iron prone to corrosion. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Glen Ellyn's trough, shown in the late 1920s, was donated to the village to hold drinking water for horses and dogs.

    Glen Ellyn's trough, shown in the late 1920s, was donated to the village to hold drinking water for horses and dogs. Courtesy of the Glen Ellyn Historical Society

 
 

One of the most indelible symbols of Glen Ellyn's historic charm is a 117-year-old horse trough in the middle of a downtown intersection.

Anywhere else, a horse trough might conjure up an image of thirsty livestock. But the village's landmark looks more like an ornate fountain appearing on postcards and repurposed as a seasonal flower bed in the center of the road at Crescent Boulevard and Main Street.

All charm aside, public works officials are increasingly worried that the corroding monument is just a car crash away from catastrophe.

So to preserve the icon, the village is planning to dismantle, refurbish and relocate the trough to another site, making it less vulnerable to traffic and exposure to road salt.

The village also is commissioning sculptors to build a bronze duplicate at a cost of no more than $40,000. The replica will replace the original horse trough -- either in the same spot or another high-profile location downtown.

The latter is made of cast-iron that has become "very brittle" and "very prone to rust," Public Works Director Julius Hansen said.

"A bronze replica will be much more durable and last a lot longer," Hansen said. "And if it would be involved in an accident, it would be almost indestructible."

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Village trustees have agreed to hire Max-Cast, Inc., a foundry based in Kalona, Iowa, to recreate the trough using the original as a mold and silicone bronze "as tough as mild steel but very corrosion resistant," the Max-Cast president said in a proposal to the village.

The new trough also will function as a fountain, with a stream of water spouting out of lion heads into a bowl. That aligns with the historic intent of the structure when William Newton donated the trough in 1907 -- the same year the village's water system was installed -- with the instructions that it would serve "horses and dogs."

Newton was the son of Glen Ellyn's first physician, Dr. Lewey Quitterfield Newton, "who owned most of what is now downtown Glen Ellyn," according to a 2006 book on village history by Russ Ward.

Repairing the structure Newton gave to the village more than a century ago will cost an additional $5,000.

"This is a very historic piece of Glen Ellyn, so we certainly want to get it safe as soon as possible," Trustee John Kenwood said at a Monday board meeting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

About six years ago, the horse trough was disassembled, repaired and sandblasted, uncovering a "major problem," Hansen wrote in a memo to the board.

"The rust and corrosion and previously repaired damage had made this cast iron piece holding the heavy large bowl structurally unsound, and the horse trough was literally about to collapse under its own weight," he wrote. "That piece is stabilized now, but thought should be given to replicating (the) original horse trough."

The board still has to decide where to display both the replica and the refurbished trough.

One option is relocating the original trough to the front of the Glen Ellyn Civic Center. The Glen Ellyn Historical Society recommends placing it in a park next to Stacy's Tavern Museum at Geneva Road and Main Street.

The foundry has indicated the project will take three to four months once the trough is delivered to its Iowa headquarters. During that time, village officials will continue refining plans for a major revitalization of the downtown streetscape and infrastructure -- designs that will factor into discussions about where to install the bronze trough, Village President Diane McGinley said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"At this point, the streetscape will decide are we putting it back where the original is right now?" McGinley asked. "Are we putting it more on a corner where we bump it out, and so we can use it more as a gathering spot? But it will be in that area."

Public works crews plan to remove the horse trough this week. It will be taken apart and sandblasted in preparation of the molding process.

Then Hansen himself will be driving a village vehicle to bring the trough to the sculptors near an Amish community in Iowa.

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