Restoration of Hurlbut Gate at Water Works Park nears completion

The restoration of the Chauncey Hurlbut Memorial Gate at Water Works Park is currently underway. The gate, which was completed in 1894, was once a symbol of Detroit featured on postcards. "We want to reclaim that symbol," says George Ellenwood, assistant director of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department.

The restoration entails architectural and structural analysis, repair and replacement of damaged limestone blocks, reconfiguration of the park-facing stairway and repair of the eagle sculpture perched atop the gate. Metal lighting fixtures were repaired when possible and replicated when necessary by Detroit-based craftsman Carl Nielbock of CAN Art Handworks. Concrete in front of the gate will be replaced with grass and wrought-iron fencing.

Ellenwood says the restoration effort does have its limits. The half-shells that most people suppose are fountains were actually troughs for horses. While they will be restored in appearance, DWSD will not be running water to them. There are also some large lantern-like structures that will not be replaced due to their prohibitive expense. The gate will, however, be illuminated at night.

The project, which got underway in January, will be complete by the end of September and the total cost is estimated at between $600,000 and $800,000. Chauncey Hurlbut, who served on the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners in the late Nineteenth Century, willed his entire estate to the construction and upkeep of Water Works Park. Thus, a portion of the project total will likely be underwritten by the Hurlbut Trust, a fund that exists solely for that purpose.

Ellenwood clearly sees the Hurlbut Gate as significant. "This is something meaningful on Jefferson that people, especially Detroiters, can relate to." The department plans to incorporate the gate into tours of the park and the treatment plant they give to schools and community groups.

Source: George Ellenwood, DWSD
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.