New digs being prepped for Iron Mike

By Earleen Hinton

Visitors to downtown Oregon will soon be able to stop for a sip as the finishing touches are being made on the new digs for Iron Mike - the city’s historic water fountain.

Randy Travis, owner of Travis Landscaping in Oregon, was busy Monday prepping the ground for the installation of antique Purington pavers that will surround the fountain.

On Tuesday, city workers, including Mayor Ken Williams, unloaded the 9-pound pavers, and Travis and his employee, Matt Lauer, got to work.

“Randy started on the paving brick installation this morning. He should be done by week’s end. At that point I will coordinate with Dale Beesing to install Iron Mike and the memorial benches,” Mike Bowers, project manager for the relocation project said in a Tuesday email.

Bowers, the former Superintendent of Streets for the City of Oregon, was instrumental in saving the Purington pavers when they were removed from the 200 block of N. Third Street, west of Conover Square, and replaced with pavement.

Once the world’s largest brick manufacturer, Purington Pavers Brick Company supplied pavers across the United States and around the world for more than 50 years. Production ceased in the late 1940s when demand for pavers disappeared and streets were constructed with asphalt and concrete.

“I want to thank everyone who came out and helped this morning in the heat to help unload the pavers,” said WIlliams. “We do not have a date yet on when everything will be ready. Once we do we will have a reopening date for Iron Mike.”

City and county officials decided to move the 1901 free-flowing fountain after a wayward car almost hit it a few years ago.

It is being moved a few yards south of its former location (at the intersection of Illinois 64 and Illinois 2) to the northeast corner of Ogle County Courthouse Square.

The fountain was cleaned, sandblasted and repainted by the E.D. Etnyre Co., at its Oregon facility. Then Iron Mike was stored by the street department over the winter after COVID-19 delayed the project.

The re-installation project began in downtown Oregon last fall when Martin & Co. excavated the new spot inside the sidewalk.

Iron Mike has three drinking levels, one for dogs, one for horses and one for people and endorsed by the Illinois Humane Society when it was forged.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen oversees production and content of 9 community weeklies and has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.