‘To honor the gallant men’
Milford’s Civil War fountain being restored
MILFORD – Mary Lull would have been pleased by what’s happening to her fountain – and not pleased by the publicity.
Lull, the widow of Oliver Lull, a Milford attorney who died from a rifle bullet wound in the Battle of Port Hudson, would have been happy that the memorial to her husband and other Milford men who died in the Civil War is being well cared for.
Last month, town workers dismantled the fountain and took it to a water utilities building for restoration work.
But Mary Augusta Lull wouldn’t have liked the focus on her. She always wanted to keep the attention on her husband, and she even requested that when she died, there would only be a small notice in the newspapers.
"Mrs. Lull was a very private person not wanting anything that she did to overshadow her husband and his sacrifice during the Civil War," Polly Cote, of the Milford Historical Society, wrote in the "Historical Places QR Tour of Milford."
After the death of her 37-year-old husband, Lull made good use of her life. She went to medical school and practiced in Milford for many years. She was the first woman to serve on the Milford School Board and the first president of the O.W. Lull Women’s Relief Corps.
She was a prominent Milford benefactor "whose life was deeply entwined in the community," according to the town history, which says Lull willed her estate, including her half of the house, to the town.
As a memorial to Col. Lull and all other Milford men who died in the Civil War, she had a fountain built on the west side of her home, called Lullwood, said to be a beautiful two-family house overlooking Nashua Street.
Lull intended the Soldier’s Memorial Fountain and Light, its formal name, "to honor the gallant men of Milford of whatever nation, race or color who pledged or gave their lives to establish and maintain our American Republic," according the "QR Tour."
"It was her wish that the light over the fountain be kept lit and that the property always be known as Lullwood so that the name of Oliver W. Lull might live and be honored by all for what he was and for all that he gave," it says.
According to "The Granite Town," residents enjoyed walking to the fountain on band concert evenings, and each year, Dr. Lull entertained graduating seniors on the lawn by the fountain. The library marked the arrival of the Memorial Day holiday every year by turning on the fountain.
With its gaskets in bad shape, the fountain hasn’t worked in a few years.
Joel Trafford, Wadleigh Memorial Library’s facilities manager, said Memorial Day 2017 is their target for having it back in place and operating as it was meant to.
The fountain stands on a granite foundation in a circular basin 40 feet in circumference. In the center is the "lady of the fountain" is an "allegorical figure of victory" made of bronze that’s 12 feet high.
Around the outside edge are stones from every state in the Union at the time of construction – there were 45.
Trafford said the restoration work is being according to guidelines from a monument company that sent professionals to visit the fountain and outline the scope of the project. Workers will use glass beading to strip iron off the old paint to prepare it for painting, and the bowl of the fountain will have its old paint stripped off, as well.
The work requires "a tremendous amount of manpower," said Trafford, who said it’s worth it.
The fountain "means a lot ot me and to the town," he said.
The fountain was dedicated during Milford’s 100th birthday celebration in 1894. At the appointed time, a button was pressed and "nine electric lights flashed our national colors through the fleecy spray, lighting up the fountain and the beautiful grounds far and near as if it were fairyland," Lull wrote in her "Book of the Fountain," published by The Cabinet Book Print in 1900.
Each of the then 45 United States contributed a piece of granite, marble or other native stone, which was then positioned around the fountain. The stones were placed in the order of the states’ admission to the Union.
The fountain stood in its original location until 1948-49, when it was dismantled and stored away as Lullwood was demolished to make way for the Wadleigh Memorial Library.
Jennifer Hansen, chairwoman of the library’s board of trustees, said they had looked at sending the fountain out for restoration, but it would have cost "tens of thousands" of dollars.
So, David Boucher, town water utilities director, approached Trafford and offered to take on the project.
Trustees "think it’s fantastic" that the work is being done in town, Hansen said.
"It’s something we’ve been talking about for years," Hansenn said. "We get a lot of people asking about it."