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June 18, 2013
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St. Joseph’s massive fountain damaged by vandals in Grass Valley

Vandals destroyed a three-tiered concrete fountain that graces the garden of St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley sometime over the weekend.

“The whole thing got knocked down,” said executive director Joseph Guida. “It’s super-heavy concrete — it must have taken three people.”

The damage to the fountain was discovered Saturday night by the organizers of an event at the center.

The fountain, which Guida estimated might be as much as 100 years old, is 10-1/2 feet in diameter at its base, which is sunken into the ground. The tiered clamshell structure in the middle of that base stood about 12 feet tall, he said.

The fountain has a leak and Guida has only been filling it for events such as weddings, he said.

Guida suspects the vandals gained access to the garden, which is bounded on one side by a brick wall and on two other sides with a metal fence, at the corner of South Church and Dalton streets, where the fence is at its lowest point.

Guida is hoping that probationers who are scheduled to clean up the grounds Saturday can help right the toppled fountain.

“I’m the only employee,” he said. “I probably need three wiry strong guys to help, not older gentlemen like me.”

This is not the only recent blow to the rose garden area; in 2010, the directional arrow for a historic sundial donated by a priest almost 150 years earlier went missing.

A nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving a historic landmark for cultural activities in the community, St. Joseph’s Cultural Center is owned and operated by the Historic Mt. St. Mary’s Preservation Committee. The building was completed in 1866 by members of the local community as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy.

Originally the sisters moved here to teach the local children, but soon mining accidents inundated them with orphans. The sisters then had several dormitories built for the orphans.

It was the only orphanage in Northern California, and children came from as far away as southern Oregon and western Nevada. By the 1890s, there were more than 400 children and 60 nuns. The nuns housed, clothed, fed and educated the orphans until the 1950s.

After the nuns left in the late 1960s, a group of concerned citizens took possession to preserve the building. In the early 1970s, a group of community activists sought to prevent the demolition of the property and maintain it for continued use within the community.

The organization was granted status as a California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National List of Historical Places.

Currently, the cultural center houses 13 artist studios; the Grass Valley Museum; the Moving Ground yoga and dance studio; a historic rose garden; and the St. Joseph’s Event Hall.

Over the years, the cultural center has assisted countless artists in promoting their art and has hosted numerous cultural events from all over the world.

Three studios — two small and one large — are coming up for rent in July and August, Guida said.

If anyone has expertise in fixing concrete or is interested in providing financial assistance, call Guida at 530-272-4725.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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The Union Updated Jun 19, 2013 12:38AM Published Jun 20, 2013 09:25PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.