June 1991

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The Schwarzenbach
Memorial Fountain

Its History and Proposed Restoration


Bill Treichler

The first concrete highway in the area of Hornell was begun in 1923. The road, part of present Route 21, was to run 22 miles from Hornell to Wayland. The first stretch of new surface to be completed was a single-lane slab from Hornell to Loon Lake.

Many Hornell families had cottages around the lake and their desire for a smooth all-weather highway to travel to Loon Lake may have provided much of the impetus for the project. A later newspaper report referred to the highway as the first concrete road linking southwestern New York with central New York. Connecting two regions of the state surely was justification for a new concrete road!

The man who had the influence to get the state to build an expensive roadway was Hornell brewery-owner, James E. Schwarzenbach. He was a popular man in Hornellsville, very active in local politics, a promoter, and a friend of Governor Al Smith.

Schwarzenbach's father had come to this country from Germany, and for some years worked as a stone cutter in Washington, D.C., before moving to Germania, Pennsylvania, and starting a brewery there in 1857. Later, son James came on to Hornellsville, and with his brothers set up the Schwarzenbach Brewery in 1895. They also established one at Galeton, Pennsylvania, but quit the brewery in Germania.

James married a local girl and built a fine house (torn down some years ago during the urban-renewal of downtown Hornell). Schwarzenbach was a horseman and a member of the Road Drivers Association which had a driving track for their horses. He also was a member of the Good Roads Association which promoted better roadways.

Schwarzenbach died in 1925 in his early seventies. The next year the Fremont section of the new concrete road was completed. The highway was sixteen feet wide: two slabs eight feet wide, six inches thick in the center, and seven inches thick at the outer edges. It was named the "Schwarzenbach Highway" to honor the man who had done so much to promote its construction.

In 1927 a roadside fountain was built as a memorial to James Schwarzenbach. His friends in the Good Roads Association were primarily responsible for getting the road named for him, and for building the memorial fountain. An article in the October 19, 1927, Wayland Register reported that work was already well underway on the Schwarzenbach Memorial. The paper said that a fund of $3000 dollars was being raised for its construction and maintenance. Six hundred dollars had been collected. Fifteen to eighteen hundred dollars of the anticipated fund was to be put in trust for upkeep. Several acres of land along the highway below a flowing spring near Haskinville were contributed by the Cold Springs Construction Company, the contractor who had built the road. The Register called the Memorial Fountain a "tribute to the man who was largely responsible for Loon Lake Road."

The Schwarzenbach Memorial fountain became a welcome sight to travellers along the highway. Weary riders and thirsty children stretched their legs and drank the spring water. John Clifford, who is the supervisor for the Town of Hornellsville, grew up in Hornell, and remembers that it seemed like such a long way from Hornell to Loon Lake. Whenever he passes the fountain he thinks again of his youth and how his whole family were refreshed by the water they drank from the fountain.

The fountain was badly damaged by an automobile in 1990. Clifford learned that the New York State Department of Transportation intended to remove the fountain and replace it with a marker. (The state now claims ownership of the memorial, although at one time Governor Lehman had vetoed a bill that would have permitted the state to take over the plot of ground and the fountain, and made the state responsible for its upkeep).

John Clifford asked the Department of Transportation to delay removal of the fountain while he sought local support to preserve the memorial. A group was formed with Onalee Faulkner and Dr. John Kelly as co-chairs.

The restoration group was told that to carry out their project they needed to operate under the auspices of a chartered organization. John appealed to the Steuben County Historical Society to accept the existing group as a committee of the Society. The members of the historical society voted to sponsor the project and the committee.

The Schwarzenbach group is seeking private support from individuals and organizations to restore and maintain the Memorial Fountain. John Clifford says, "Our hope is to have the structure repaired and the fountain operating again."


Hornellsville Supervisor John Clifford provided the information about the Schwarzenbach Highway and the fountain. Robert F. Oakes, who the Village of Hornell historian supplied information about James Schwarzenbach and his brewery in Hornell.
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