The Splendor of “Die Lorelei” Fountain Preserved
Through the generosity of the Anna-Maria & Stephen Kellen Foundation
On October 25 – 27, 2023, conservators and stone masons from Cultural Heritage Conservation and Titan Roofing, under the Municipal Art Society’s Adopt-A-Monument program, conducted annual maintenance on the Heinrich Heine Fountain (“Die Lorelei”), Ernest Herter, sculptor, 1899, in Joyce Kilmer Park, the Bronx. Restored through a magnanimous gift of the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Fountain in 1999, the protection of this grand multifigured is made possible by the Kellen Foundation’s continuing generous maintenance grant.
The conservation/maintenance of the 125-year-old marble artwork included cleaning the fragile marble artwork and filling cracks and joints that are continually victim to the environment. Water that sits in the fountain basin over the summer produces heavy biological growth requiring extensive but gentle chemical cleaning each fall. The first D2 Biological Solution was sprayed on the biogrowth on the dry marble surface; allowed to dwell for an hour; agitated with scrub brushes; and reapplied with D2 to sit overnight. Customized scaffolding was built to reach the topmost figure. The next day, the marble was scrubbed and rinsed again and the biogrowth areas cleaned with a slightly different solution. Following that, all the figures and column were treated with TritonX-100, a nonionic detergent, gently scrubbed and rinsed. A large number of joints and cracks were cleaned of failing mortar and repointed. All failing sealant in the marble perimeter walls was repointed.
The fountain’s location in Joyce Kilmer Park, on the Grand Concourse and 161st Street, is across from the Bronx Borough Courthouse and a long ball throw from Yankee Stadium. While every monument tells a story, the history of the Heine Fountain has one of the most fascinating and tumultuous.In 1888 many German writers and scholars, with the support of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, commissioned Herter to design a fountain honoring the German poet, Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) whose poem, Die Lorelei immortalized the legendary siren who lured sailors to death with her song. Its theme is one of Heine’s variations on the danger of beauty and love. Intended for the poet’s birthplace in Dusseldorf, it was rejected due to political pressure. Purchased instead by the German-American singing society Arion in 1893, it was dedicated in Joyce Kilmer Park on July 8, 1899. In 1940, it was moved to the Park’s end. Years of vandalism and neglect took their toll. Many sculptural elements were broken and destroyed, and the piece was graffitied and entirely painted over several times. In 1999, through the Adopt-A-Monument program in partnership with NYC Parks Department and the Bronx Borough President’s office, the monument was restored, relocated to its original site at the south end of the park, and placed in a newly landscaped setting, linking old world grandeur with the 21st century.
In appreciation of MAS’s long care of the Heine Fountain, Commissioner Larry Scoones and the Bronx horticultural crew place magnificent winter evergreens in the fountain’s basin adding majesty to this beautiful fountain while providing protection against freezing conditions and possible damage.