~ Village Park Restoration 2014-2018 ~
Ardi Schneider, Joan Patton, and Joan Beth Brown
An important core mission of the Watch Hill Memorial Library and Improvement Society has been the restoration and continued maintenance of the various public areas in Watch Hill including the Watch Hill Village Park, sometimes called Harbor Park.
Marion Coffin, a renowned landscape architect and Watch Hill resident, developed plans for the original park which were completed in 1936, including the placement of plantings, trees, pathways and statues: Chief Ningret statue (Enid Yandell, 1914-16) donated to the Village by Mrs. Clement C. Griscom in honor of her husband and a water fountain, The Dreamer (Sylvia Shaw Judson, 1940). Chief Ninigret was originally placed on a horse trough at the intersection of Ninigret Avenue and Westerly Road, but with the evolution of the automobile and increased vandalism, the WHMLIS began looking for a new home for the statue. The spot was found as part of Marian Coffin’s plans placing the statue beside the harbor, facing the setting sun and Chief Ninigret’s homeland. See other placements for Chief Ninigret at the end of his Restoration History.
Ms. Coffin’s plans also included a drinking fountain on the opposite end of the Park which would become The Dreamer, commissioned by the WHMLIS from Sylvia Shaw Judson and donated by the Mrs. Rigley Watts in honor of her husband in 1940.
The Dreamer, finished October 2017. Park Restoration Chairs Joan Beth Brown and Susie O’Connor (not pictured). Hydrangeas will replace the Regosa roses this spring.
The Park was dedicated to members of the Watch Hill Improvement Society in 1936 with 17 original memorial benches and more added throughout the years. In 1992, after various storms, the Park underwent an extensive restoration effort led by the WHMLIS, which included a Gazebo constructed in the Park with funds donated by the Lattner Family Foundation. The Gazebo is maintained by the WHMLIS with continued financial support from the Lattner family.
At the time of the 100th Anniversary of Chief Ninigret in 2014 there was heightened interest, both with the WHMLIS and the Park Commission, in reestablishing the statue as a fountain with a pond and giving the area more prominence.
Following the concept of the original Coffin design, the committee met with landscape architects, plumbers, stonemasons, bronze sculptors, and fountain restorers in conjunction with the PC to establish a cohesive plan for the entire WH Village Park. This would include the removal of various plantings on both the south and north end of the park, the introduction of others, the continuation of the fence on the north end and the restoration of the Chief Ninigret and Dreamer statues. This was done in conjunction with new plantings around the Gazebo to show it to best advantage.
On October 30, 2015 when Cherenzia & Associates assisted the committee by hoisting Chief Ninigret up in the air so that the water line to the fountains, which emit water through the mouths of the two fish held by the Chief, could be discovered. When it was seen under the boulder the realization of a restored Chief as a fountain was all but assured.
A panorama of the north end of the park and the new placement of the Chief Ninigret statue which allows for better visibility and a welcoming entrance into the northern end of the park. Enid Yandell, a student of Auguste Rodin agreed with her teacher that sculpture was meant to “lead the viewer around the artwork…and engage the public.” (Wikipedia).
The Chief Ninigret hoist and Chief Ninigret’s fish as fountains again with a small pond – restored!
The many locations of Chief Ninigret.