PRINCEVILLE — Neptune rises out of the water, guarding the entrance to Princeville in an iconic, 200-ton fountain. And now there’s a group of residents rallying to preserve the marble god of the sea.
The group, “Friends of the Fountain,” was formed by community members including Leonard and Ellene Grace, and arose because some say it is too expensive to maintain.
“Some have voiced destroying the fountain,” Ellene Grace said. “We’re passionate about the fountain. It doesn’t seem like Princeville if the fountain isn’t there.”
Right now, Neptune is minus the trident he uses to rule the sea. That’s been stolen twice from the fountain since installation in 1991.
There are also a few cracks in the foundation, and other repairs are needed, and “Friends of the Fountain” is ready to take on the project.
The group has had two meetings — one in November and one Jan. 5. It started with a handful of residents and has grown to more than 20 people.
“Our objective and passion is to preserve the fountain as part of Princeville,” Ellene Grace said.
Former Princeville Mirage resort owner Christopher Skase commissioned the fountain while on vacation at a hotel in Cliveden, England in the late 1980s, inspired by the fountain owned by the Viscounts Astor.
That hotel, which was home of several of the English royalty over the years, is now under the care of the National Trust in Buckinghamshire.
After seeing Lady Astor’s fountain, Skase commissioned a fountain for his hotel — an exact replica of the Cliveden fountain, except bigger.
It took a year for 12 Italian artisans to create the 200-ton fountain, chopped out of a 900-ton block of marble. That was cut into 200 pieces and shipped to Kauai in 11 containers.
Four of those Italian craftsmen met the fountain on-island and took another four months to install the fountain. At the end of installation in 1991, the total cost of the fountain was $1 million.
In 2010, the deed to the fountain was transferred to the Princeville 2 Homeowners Association, which spends about $275,000 a year to maintain it, according to HOA records.
Area hotels and resorts also help pay to keep the fountain in working order, including keeping the lights on every night to illuminate Neptune.
Alongside being passionate about the fountain, the Graces have a 40-year history of operating a waterproofing and restoration company in San Francisco.
They’ve taken a look at the fountain with Friends of the Fountain board president Don Cunningham and outlined restoration needs for the structure, with costs coming in at roughly $20,000.
Needed repairs include about 140 lineal feet of cracks that need to be injected with epoxy, a careful pressure-wash of the entire fountain, and a full epoxy coat to protect the fountain.
So far, Friends of the Fountain has received an anonymous donation of $10,000 toward the project, and Leonard Grace has volunteered to donate $12,700 worth of labor and materials to finish the epoxy piece of the work.
Neptune also needs his trident back.
“We are searching for an artist to complete that repair,” Ellene Grace said.
The group is also considering ways to install cameras or an alarm system to discourage fountain vandalism, and advocates an entire evaluation of the pumps and chlorine injection systems.
Ellene and Leonard Grace have already tried registering the fountain as a historical monument, but it’s not old enough to fit the bill.
“It’s certainly significant enough,” Ellene Grace said.
Friends of the Fountain is gearing up for another meeting in March, though the exact date hasn’t yet been set.
For more information or to join Friends of the Fountain, email email@example.com.
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.