My great-grandfather, Walter A. Dilzell, was the electrical contractor for the prismatic fountain built at West End Park. According to an article in THE TIMES-PICAYUNE, it was completed in 1916. Our family had a beautiful picture of the fountain, but it was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. While doing some research, I came across the name "Darlington Fountain." Is this the same fountain? Are you aware of any plans to restore it?
There seems to be some confusion about the fountain constructed at West End Park in 1916. The beautiful prismatic fountain was designed and installed by your great-grandfather, Walter Dilzell. Another manufacturer of electric fountains at the time was Frederick W. Darlington, whose fountains graced cities including Chicago, Denver and Detroit. The fountain at West End Park, however, was not created by his company.
From the first story on Sept. 15, 1916, The Times-Picayune wrote glowingly about the new attraction at West End Park being one of the finest fountains in the country. It cost $25,000. The article told us how the new fountain would operate: "The fountain has 1,746 streams and nine colors operated in a dozen sets of display. An operator will be on duty every evening to handle the switchboard. There are two rows of levers or switches on this board. The upper row operates the nine colors, and the lower board is for the twelve sets of streams." Your great-grandfather was given credit for its design and construction.
On Feb. 23, 1918, a group of Dilzell's friends honored him for his outstanding achievement. Members of the Cosmopolitan Club gave Dilzell a diamond-studded badge decorated with a miniature of the fountain. Diamonds were used for the lighting effect, and a ruby dominated the splashing fountain.
Year after year, the fountain continued to delight residents and visitors to the city. By 1929, thousands of motorists were driving to West End to admire the fountain, and many others arrived by streetcar. An article in the paper that year explained in detail how the prismatic fountain worked, and once again paid tribute to its creator. Dilzell, who was the city electrician for two terms, died Feb. 2, 1930.
In 1938, the New Orleans City Guide described the fountain — which never was called anything but the West End fountain — as a special point of interest. "A special attraction of [West End Park] is the large fountain in operation during the summer months. Here people sit for hours on warm nights watching the play of waters in various colors, each spray an individual representation. One of the loveliest of these is known as the 'Prairie Fire,' a fountain of water illuminated by gold, red, yellow, and blue lights."
By 1950, the fountain was in operation only on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, and it continued to delight New Orleanians through the 1970s, after which it became idle.
The Friends of West End organization has plans to restore the fountain. I hope they give your ancestor the credit he deserves.