Fifty years ago, the city of Louisville approached architect E.J. Schickli with the idea of building a new shelter house and comfort station to replace a crumbling structure in Cherokee Park. Playing off the park’s name, Schickli designed the teepee-shaped Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion that is so familiar to visitors today. Last month, Schickli visited his creation for the first time in 15 years and he did not like what he saw. “That’s the problem with most public and semi-public entities,” Schickli laments as he looks at the pavilion’s deteriorating roof. “Money is often appropriated to build them but never to provide maintenance for them. It doesn’t matter if it’s this or any other structure. It’s a mindset I will never understand.”
The Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion, a popular site for family reunions, wedding receptions and other gatherings in Cherokee Park, recently became a cause celebre when some Highlands residents learned that the Louisville Metro Parks Department and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy
planned to replace the shelter. Metro Parks held public meetings throughout 2009 on the matter, but most of the pavilion supporters say they did not know about them. Another meeting was scheduled in May, and about 40 supporters showed up to lobby for keeping the pavilion. The “Save the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion in Cherokee Park” Facebook page has drawn nearly 1,300 members. Last month, in response to the public outcry
, Metro Parks pulled back from its plan to replace the shelter, but that does nothing to alleviate the reasons that the city and the conservancy wanted to demolish the structure in the first place.
The Olmsted Parks Conservancy believes that the pavilion, made of steel, wood and stone, does not fit in with the original intention of Cherokee Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted. In addition, Metro Parks spokeswoman Margaret Brosko said the structure needs nearly $150,000 in repairs, although that figure is based on only one estimate. Brosko said replacing the pavilion would cost less than $100,000, but that did not include the cost of demolition. The Olmsted Parks Conservancy recently spent $80,000 just repairing the roof of the pavilion at Big Rock
Brosko said Metro Parks had never set a timetable for implementing its Hogan’s Fountain Master Plan, which also includes moving the basketball court and dealing with parking issues. But it is unlikely the city will have the funds to make the necessary repairs. If Cherokee Park patrons want to keep the pavilion, then they are going to have to raise the funds to fix it.
“Metro Parks and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy continue to believe that our city’s treasured Olmsted Parks should be restored with their unique historic character in mind,” reads a statement released by Metro Parks. “Whenever possible, and when funds permit, structures should be renovated or replaced in a manner that’s consistent with Olmsted design philosophy. In the case of the Hogan’s Fountain ‘teepee,’ we believe that it is out of character with this Olmsted Park, and the community would be best served with a new shelter, modeled after the one built on Baringer Hill
(also known as Dog Hill) several years ago. However, if there is community desire for retaining and renovating this structure, and if the community is willing to raise private funds for the renovation, we will not take action to replace the structure.”
Pavilion supporters are angry that the city let the pavilion get into such a state of disrepair. Tammy Madigan, one of the Highlands residents who led the campaign against the pavilion’s demolition, says the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion is the kind of unique structure that the city needs to preserve. Madigan works at an architectural firm, but the pavilion is also important to her for personal reasons. She was married there in 2007.
Madigan says public records show that no funds had been budgeted for maintenance at the shelter in the last 14 years. “I’m not sure how much you need in maintenance, but I’m sure it’s more than zero dollars in 14 years,” she says.
Lark Phillips, another pavilion supporter, says that she doesn’t think tax payers should have to fund the repairs out of their own pockets, but if that is what it takes to keep the structure safe, Phillips is willing to go along with it.
“The city should have been taking care of that pavilion for the last 14, 15 years,” Phillips says. “I know budgets are tight, I understand that. Hopefully, enough of us can make a difference. I think most people are for keeping the pavilion. It’s been part of our community for 50 years. We love it. I would like to think Olmsted would be for a pavilion, as well, because it is bringing people together. That was his vision for the park – to bring people together.”
Schickli says he did not know about the controversy surrounding the pavilion until last month. The architect remembers that when they were building the structure, his partner Arthur Tafel referred to the pavilion as the “pee pee teepee” because it stood next to the park bathrooms then. Schickli, who was the original architect for the Louisville Zoo
and also worked on the Louisville International Airport, says he knows from experience that designs come and go according to public whim. He just hopes the pavilion sticks around for a while longer.
“I would hope that it would be preserved,” he says. “It has a lot of life left in it and apparently it gets a lot of use.”