A historic centerpiece in South Bend’s Leeper Park is getting recognized Friday for its long restorative journey. Studebaker Electric Fountain will be honored with an award from Indiana Automotive, an affiliated group of Indiana Landmarks.
The heritage award will be presented to the Friends of Studebaker Fountain for their efforts to recover and restore the landmark tied to the city’s auto manufacturing industry.
The cast iron fountain was commissioned by John Studebaker, president of South Bend’s Studebaker Wagon Works, as a gift to the city. The 28-foot-tall, electrically illuminated fountain was installed in 1906.
Over the decades, the fountain fell into disrepair and was dismantled in 1941. Nearly seven decades later, the fountain was discovered and donated to The History Museum of South Bend.
The “friends” group of community leaders and preservation advocates raised nearly $1 million for repairs, reinstallation and operation costs of the fountain, which now sits in Leeper Park, which itself has been restored.
“With its fascinating back story and inspiring restoration, the Studebaker Fountain is a great example of historic preservation,” says Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “It’s gratifying to see a piece of the city’s automotive heritage resume a place of honor as a celebrated community landmark.”
When the fountain was found, its bottom third was missing. The fountain friends group commissioned an ironworks company to recast the missing parts, using original molds from the company that created the piece in early part of the 20th century.
The refurbished fountain was rededicated in 2019. It now serves as a backdrop for weddings and events at the park.