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Fountain repair brings ‘Old World flare’

By James Morton

jmorton@civitasmedia.com

Adrian Alexandru, originally from Romania and now of Lawrenceville, splatters wet cement in mounds around the coping of the fountain at Hills and Dales Estate on Thursday before he molds it into the fountain’s original design. Alexandru was brought in to recreate the original European style of the coping after repairs to the about century-old fountain last week.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEB091715hillsanddalesfountain-1.jpgAdrian Alexandru, originally from Romania and now of Lawrenceville, splatters wet cement in mounds around the coping of the fountain at Hills and Dales Estate on Thursday before he molds it into the fountain’s original design. Alexandru was brought in to recreate the original European style of the coping after repairs to the about century-old fountain last week.

James Morton | Daily News

Adrian Alexandru pushes a mold around the wet cement on the fountain at Hills and Dales on Thursday to form the coping. The original coping had started to flake and crumble after about 100 years of use.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEB091715hillsanddalesfountain-2.jpgAdrian Alexandru pushes a mold around the wet cement on the fountain at Hills and Dales on Thursday to form the coping. The original coping had started to flake and crumble after about 100 years of use.

James Morton | Daily News

LaGRANGE — When an about 100-year-old fountain at Hills and Dales was in need of repair, the overseers of the historic LaGrange estate brought in an expert to recreate the look of the original.

Adrian Alexandru, who was in charge of reconstructing the coping of the fountain, specializes in Old World decorative plaster techniques. He said Thursday it would take more than 12 consecutive hours for the entire process to be completed.

The Hills and Dales estate was the home of Fuller E. Callaway, who purchased the land that was the Ferrell Gardens in 1911. In 1913, Atlanta architect Neil Reed was commissioned to design the fountain and designed it to tie into the Italian style of the home, said Carleton Wood, executive director of Hills and Dales.

The fountain is a focal point of the Hills and Dales gardens, Wood said. After about a century of use, the repeated freezing and thawing of water in the fountain had caused the material to begin to flake off and fall apart and the actual fountain to crack. That’s where Alexandru and his expertise came into play.

After hiring a local contractor to repair the fountain, the contractor tracked down Alexandru through his specialty in European-style plaster and concrete work to recreate the coping, Wood noted.

Alexandru’s crew worked well into the night Thursday to complete the project all at once, otherwise the concrete would not dry properly and hold together.

“Little by little,” Alexandru said of the process as he flung concrete from his trowel Thursday, splattering small drops of the white paste back into his face.

Once he finished making small mounds along the already-formed, but misshapen, coping, Alexandru dragged along a wooden mold in the desired shape. It was a slow process preoccupied with jokes among him, his coworker and son, who works with him when not in college.

Wood noted Friday that it would take several days for the coping to dry and cure completely. To ensure it doesn’t crack, crews from the Hills and Dales Estate had to continually spray it with a mist.

Alexandru is originally from Romania, where he trained in the art with his father. He currently lives in Lawrenceville.

He said, perhaps jokingly, that the art can only be learned in Europe and American masons would not be able to create the Italian-inspired shape of the coping.

“It’s nice, since the house has an Old World flare to it, to have European involvement in the project,” Wood said.

James Morton is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2154.