World-Famous Italian Fountain Springs Eternal!

Bronx, N.Y.—September, 2008  – The historic Italian Fountain at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo has been completely restored. An evening event on Sunday, September 14, celebrated the restoration with a special visit by Daniele Travi, special envoy to the government of Como, Italy and with a performance by Italian-American tenor, Michael Amante.

The Italian Fountain, also known as the Rockefeller Fountain, is carved from light-colored limestone and granite. It was designed of sculptor Biagio Catella in Como, Italy, in 1872. After less than 20 years on site in the Piazza Cavour, the fountain was dismantled and put into storage in the Como City Hall. Many years later, in 1902, William Rockefeller bought the fountain and gave it to the Bronx Zoo. Laying the groundwork for the fountain at the zoo took about eight years, and then it was finally moved from its original location on Astor Court to its present position in the center of the Bronx Zoo’s Rainey Gate Concourse in 1910. It was declared a landmark in1968.

The historic makeover, which began in 2006, included the cleaning of all stone elements, such as the sea horses, dolphins, a swan, caryatids, mermaids and mermen. Cracks formed by time and inclement weather were filled in with cement, and lost pieces were replaced with new ones. There was also a complete overhaul and redesign of the plumbing and lighting systems that now includes a new pump and pipes that recycle water.

Building Conservation Associates, Inc. (BCA,) a consulting firm that specializes in restoring buildings and works of art, was selected to work on the project. A. Ottavino Corp. was then contracted to fulfill the restoration work.  The task included refurbishing the stone façade and replacing lost pieces, all giving the 136-year-old fountain a beautiful new look. Every detail was considered when it came to restoring the fountain. The Italian Fountain has long been a favorite among zoo-goers to have their photo taken at this stunning and picturesque location.

“It has been an honor to have the Italian Fountain on our grounds here at the Bronx Zoo for the last 98 years,” said John Calvelli, WCS Senior Vice President for Public Affairs. “To get the chance to see such a magnificent piece of history restored so that a new generation of visitors can marvel at its beauty is truly wonderful.” 

 “It is very rewarding for us to have this beloved work of art representing Como here at the Bronx Zoo,” said Daniele Travi, special envoy representing the government of Como, Italy.
“Como and its people are deeply touched and proud that this symbol of Italy – and our hometown in particular - graces such a place of beauty and inspiration in New York City. Thank you caring for ‘our’ Italian Fountain.”

The Italian Fountain restoration was made possible with funding provided by Congressman José E. Serrano through the Save America’s Treasures Foundation, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión, Jr. The Italian Fountain welcomes guests at its Rainy Gate entrance to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s headquarters at the Bronx Zoo.

Visitors entering the Bronx Zoo from Fordham Road may feel like they are taking a step back into an elegant time as the historic Rainey Gate with its bonze sculptures depicting a variety of animals welcome guests. The streetlamps have been replaced to continue the experience that then opens up to the Italian Fountain at the center of the concourse area that is encircled with plantings. Just beyond is the Italian Garden, which is a rectangular space that carries the theme with an intricate landscape design, that draws guests to the two sets of stairs leading to Astor Court. In 2000, the entire space from the entrance point at Rainey Gate to the far end of Astor Court at Zoo Center, was declared a landmark site by NYC Landmarks Commission.  Astor Court has the most intact collection of Beaux Arts designed buildings in New York. The new
permanent Madagascar! exhibit inside the restored 1903 Lion House opened in June, 2008. All of these projects were part of WCS’s Gateways to Conservation campaign.

The fountain’s celebration was enhanced in-part through generous donations by Daniele Travi, who provided the wine from Como’s only vineyard, while Dave Greco of Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue provided some of the Italian specialty foods. Special thanks to Michael Amante for his wonderful performance, adding to the culture and spirit of the event.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide.  We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo.  Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony.  WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

Linda Corcoran (718-220-5182;