Union Square Association in Baltimore Replacing Monument Dedicated to Mencken

Melody Simmons, Dolan, February 21, 2012

Union Square activists are at odds over the removal of a fountain dedicated to H.L. Mencken in the historic park—and some are chafing because the $8,000 replacement, bought with funds from the neighborhood’s annual Christmas cookie tour, will not be rededicated to the stogie-chomping critic who lived in a rowhouse facing the square.

“Time moves on,” Chris Taylor, president of the Union Square Association, said of the decision not to rededicate the new waterworks in Mencken’s name. “It’s not like we’re taking away from anything in the past, it’s just time moves on.”

The Mencken fountain was taken down in January, said Brad Housley, a foreman with Allied Contractors, the local company hired by the city Department of Recreation and Parks for the $437,400 project, which includes other renovations. The park is overseen by the Maryland Historical Trust, which holds an easement over the entire square.

“The old one was getting rough,” Housley said, of the metal and resin fountain flanked by nearly three dozen bronze plates illustrating the covers of books written by the Sage of Baltimore over his career as a journalist, magazine editor, author and critic. “It was just old.”

The Mencken fountain was put up after a Victorian-style fountain placed in the square in the 1850s was removed during World War II and, legend has it, scrapped for metal, said J. Rodney Little, director of the Maryland Historical Trust.

It was designed and purchased with proceeds from the sale of the decorative book plates and was dedicated to Mencken in 1971 during a ceremony that drew local residents, historians and then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer, said JoeAnne Whitely, a former Union Square resident who spearheaded the fundraising and memorial tribute.

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