Fanny P. Lewis Park Fund
Several weeks ago I made mention in this column about the Fanny P. Lewis Park Fund donating the first gift for restoration of the stone walls at the entrances to Riverside Park. As part of that column, I said I’d return to that park fund at a later date, and today seems like the right time.
The Fanny P. Lewis Park fund for the most part operates “below the radar” as it goes about its business.
The fund is now well over 100 years old and its main purpose, as directed by Fanny P. Lewis, is to help beautify our community. Because the fund is not large and because of the low rates of interest paid to many investments, there is little earnings available during this economic period. But, this year the trustees determined that a $1,000 donation as “seed money” for repairs to the stone entrances would be this year’s effort.
The trustees wanted to put some focus on the need to repair these walls before the elements cause more damage from heat and cold, ice and snow, and the thawing that occurs every year.
It is estimated the cost of these renovations will be in the neighborhood of $125,000. That’s a huge sum and it’s not likely to be handled through city budget needs without some solid support from the community.
So, after reading about Fanny P. Lewis and her philanthropy below, we’re hoping others in today’s community will be moved to offer contributions to the stone wall repair program at Riverside Park.
If you are so inclined, checks can be sent to Watertown Area Community Foundation, P.O. Box 351, Watertown, WI 53094.
So who was this Fanny P. Lewis that cared so much for Watertown and left an indelible mark on the city’s beautification efforts?
Robert E. Lewis was a native of New York and Fanny Lewis, a native of Vermont. They were married in 1850 and came to Watertown 11 years later. Robert and his brother, George, were the original owners of the G. B. Lewis Co., which went through many transitions, ultimately being part of Menasha Corp. The business was located along the Soo Line Railroad tracks at Montgomery Street. Today that large facility is home to several smaller businesses.
In 1870, George purchased the ownership share of Robert and then Robert and Fanny moved to Iowa, but they ultimately decided Watertown was where they wanted to be and came back here in retirement.
Robert died in 1904 and Fanny a year later. After her husband died, Fanny continued to live in her home at 412 S. Washington St., and decided then and there that she would set up a trust with proceeds to be used to beautify the community.
Before the trust fund was established, in 1899 they donated the Soldier’s Monument at City Park, now known at Watertown Veterans Memorial Park. It was a monument honoring Civil War soldiers. When you’re down by that park this spring, take a look at it. It is a beautiful memorial that had to be a major undertaking and we can’t imagine the cost. That is one of the most visible donations the couple made and leaves a lasting impression on all who see it.
In addition to the monument, the Lewises also donated funds for a fountain at the park, but it was removed long ago.
There’s much more to tell but we’ll have to save that when we continue on this topic next week.