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Back where he belongs:

Dr. Henry Cogswell statue once again graces Rockville’s Central Park

 

By JESSICA CIPARELLI Staff Writer



VERNON — “Welcome home, Dr. Cogswell,” said state Senator Anthony Guglielmo to the crowd that gathered for the dedication of the Cogswell Fountain in Rockville’s Central Park on a dreary Saturday afternoon.
    The crowd included Mayor Ellen Marmer, state Reps. Claire Janowski and Joan Lewis, state Senator Tony Guglielmo, town council and Rockville Downtown Association members, former RDA Executive Director Luise Craige, current RDA Executive Director Randy Anagnostis, Town Administrator Larry Shaffer, and local philanthropist Rosetta Pitkat. Pitkat donated $50,000 for the replica of the original Cogswell statue. LeFevre Studios, Inc., of New York was commissioned to replicate the 1883 statue.
    “This statue would not have — been possible without the funds to reproduce it,” said Steve Marcham, former RDA president and former mayor. “The town is in debt to one person – Rosetta Pitkat.”
    “We have come here to honor a historic figure,” continued Marcham. “This is a collaboration of the Rockville Downtown Association, town of Vernon and state of Connecticut.”
    The statue itself is also a collaboration – the base is from the town of Vernon, said Marcham, as he introduced Mayor Ellen Marmer to discuss the town’s hand in the project.
    “This was a great collaboration,” said Marmer. “Our public works [department] was at it again, working to restore the base.”
    A chuckle went up from the crowd when Marmer noted that the town now has in its possession, a mold for the Cogswell statue, which in the past, has had the tendency to disappear off its pedestal.
    “Just in case Mr. Cogswell ends up in the Snip [Snipsic Lake] again, we can resurrect him,” she said.
    The fountain project was part of a larger Central Park project, which is being funded by state and federal funding. State Rep. Claire Janowski secured a $250,000 state grant, part of which – $35,000 – was used for the restoration of the base of the statue, and to plumb the fountain for running water.
    Marmer said the Central Park project will go out to bid as soon as the federal government allows them to, since federal funds are also involved.
    Setting the stage for the unveiling of the statue, Vernon resident Anthony Vecchiarelli told the story of the Cogswell Fountain as the “Spirit of the Cogswell.”
    Dr. Henry Cogswell was a San Francisco dentist and philanthropist, and a native of Tolland. In 1883, Cogswell erected a fountain in honor of his cousin, William T. Cogswell, in Rockville’s Central Park. Dr. Cogswell was an advocate of prohibition and the Temperance Movement, which pledged that individuals abstain from the use of alcohol.
    “Alcohol was the indispensable cure, and its abuse was a problem,” said Vecchiarelli. “But the solution put forth by
the temperance [pledge, banning alcohol] was so simple, it was doomed to fail. The temperance pledge was a tool for extremists. Excess is the problem – anything can be overdone – even Henry’s water.”
    The Cogswell Fountain was one of 31 fountains commissioned around the country to provide a source of water, from which residents could partake freely. Other fountains were built in Brooklyn, New York, San Francisco and San Jose, California, Washington, D.C., Fall River, Massachusetts, and Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
    “The gift was seen as self-promoting egoism,” said Vecchiarelli. “Who was this millionaire doctor from San Francisco, sending this statue of himself honoring his cousin, telling us what to drink?”
    The Cogswell statue held a glass of water in one hand, a Temperance Pledge in the other. In many cities, anti-temperance residents destroyed, toppled or replaced the statues with neutral figurines or vessels. In Rockville, the statue was stolen twice, then eventually melted down for scrap metal during World War II.
    Two years after the statue was put in place, it disappeared, only to be found in Snipsic Lake.
    “I can assure you that my removal was no harmless prank. If it was water I wanted, it was water I would get,” said Vecchiarelli, as the Spirit.
    The statue was recovered from the lake, cleaned and returned to its pedestal, but disappeared again shortly after. It mysteriously reappeared during the 1908 Town Centennial Celebration, or “Old Home Week,” with a hand-written sign noting, “I have come back for Old Home Week.”
    Following Old Home Week – the statue even took part in the parade festivities – it was brought to the Town Farm and eventually, melted down for scrap metal.
    “This [1883] fountain was no innocent gift – it was a political challenge,” said Vecchiarelli. “In 2005, it is a fountain – to rejuvenate downtown Rockville and thus, rejuvenate downtown America. This new Henry – what does he stand for now? That brown metal sheet [in his hand] is Rockville’s history – Henry stands for Rockville now.”
    State Reps. Claire Janowski and Joan Lewis, along with state Senator Tony Guglielmo, presented Rosetta Pitkat with an official state citation and presented the philanthropist with a state legislative pin, which are hard to come by, according to Janowski.
    “It will not give you complete access [to the Capitol building] but it will certainly impress the guard,” said Janowski, as she placed the pin on Pitkat.
    Malcolm Cogswell, a descendent of the Cogswell family and editor of the Cogswell family newsletter, arrived from Quebec, Canada to attend the ceremony. Cogswell said at first, he was a bit apprehensive about how the town would deal with the meaning of the statue.
    “I’m really glad we came – it’s quite exciting,” he said. “I was wondering how they were going to deal with it because it was a very strong temperance statue. They did very well,” he said.
    When asked if he could abide by the temperance pledge, Cogswell said, “Maybe I could take it with the exceptions – my father and mother were members of the Temperance Lodge – ‘The Sons of Temperance’ – which meant total abstinence from anything with alcohol in it. They never went, but they were members.”
    The exceptions to the Temperance Pledge include, “as a medicine prescribed by a competent physician as a curative, or as a preventative health measure, or, for religious purposes, or, on Special Days–such as The Fourth of July when we celebrate our independence and the birth of our great nation.”
    The dedication ceremony marked the culmination of years of work by both private and public participants in the planning, design, restoration, manufacture and installation of the final Cogswell Memorial Fountain.

It won’t give you complete access, but it’s impressive all the same! State Rep. Claire Janowski laughs with Rosetta Pitkat, after Pitkat was presented a state citation and a “sought after” legislative pin, which Janowski said are hard to come by. “It will not give you complete access [to the Capitol], but it will certainly impress the guard,” said Janowski, as she pinned the legislative pin to Pitkat’s jacket. Pitkat, a Rockville-born philanthropist, donated $50,000 for the new Cogswell statue in Rockville’s Central Park.
   Photo by Jessica Ciparelli.

 

The unveiling. Former mayor and former RDA president Steve Marcham and former Executive Director Luise Craige help unveil the new Cogswell Fountain. Photos by Jessica Ciparelli.

 

The plaque. A plaque explaining the Cogswell history and Pitkat’s donation is located across from the statue.

 

A lot of effort put forth. Steve Marcham, Town Administrator Larry Shaffer, former RDA Executive Director Luise Craige, Rosetta Pitkat, and Mayor Ellen Marmer brave the elements to pose next to the new Cogswell Fountain following its unveiling.  

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Rockville Reminder story 11/1/05

Cogswell Fountain History

Cogswell Family Association -- http://www.cogswell.org/