Bronx park has unique, seldom-known history

The Heinrich Heine Fountain found at Joyce Kilmer Park was first commissioned in 1897.

The Heinrich Heine Fountain found at Joyce Kilmer Park was first commissioned in 1897. (4/26/16)

THE BRONX - A park near Yankee Stadium has a unique history that not many people know about.

The Heinrich Heine Fountain found at Joyce Kilmer Park was first commissioned in 1897. After traveling for two years from Germany to Manhattan, it ended up in the Bronx in 1899.

Also known as the Lorelei Fountain, it honors German writer Heinrich Heine.

Urban planner Sam Goodman describes that fountain to Germany as what William Shakespeare is to England. He also says the fountain fell into decay in the 1970s and 80s.

"The fountain was horrifically vandalized," Goodman says. "All the heads of the mermaids were decapitated, lots of the arms were torn off, a lot of the statuary at the base of the monument was destroyed."

With the threat of having the monument moved to Riverdale, the Municipal Art Society took notice and quickly secured more than $300,000 from a foundation toward restoring it. The rest of the funds were eventually allocated by then Borough President Fernando Ferrer and the Parks Department.

In 1999, the monument was reintroduced to the Bronx with a new message.

"Just because a place is not wealthy, that shouldn't deny those who live in that place something of beauty," Goodman says.

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