Bronx Zoo restores 98-year-old Italian fountain

(L-r) Michael Almante, Father Joseph McShane, Daniele Travi, Kate A. Ottavino, Congressman Jose E. Serrano, Robert Nolan, budget director of Bronx borough president, John Calvelli, Sr. vice president for Wildlife Conservation Society public affair Photo by Jody Concepcion

The Wildlife Conservation Society continues to help keep history alive for generations to come at the Bronx Zoo.

The Bronx community gathered on Sunday, September 14, to celebrate the successfully restored Italian Fountain located at the Rainey Gate entrance.

“We felt it was important to save a symbol of how much we have taken from the old world,” stated John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society’s senior vice president of public affairs. “We had a mission here to create the greatest zoological conservation in the world and to take the best of Europe and bring it here.”

The fountain was designed by Biagio Catella from Como, Italy in 1872. After a short period at the Piazza Cavour, the city dismantled the piece and put it away in storage at the Como City Hall.

William Rockefeller purchased the beautiful sculpture in 1902, as a donation to the Bronx Zoo. In 1910, after several years of preparation the fountain was placed at its current location, in Astor Court.

“It has been an honor to have the Italian Fountain on our grounds here at the Bronx Zoo for the last 98 years,” reflects Calvelli.

“To get the chance to see such a magnificent piece of history restored so that a new generation of visitors can marvel at its beauty is truly wonderful.”

The Italian fountain, also known as Rockefeller Fountain, was declared a landmark in 1968. Following in 2000, the New York City Landmarks Commission declared the entirety of Astor Court a landmark, extending from the Rainey entrance gate to the Zoo Center.

Building Conservation Associates, Inc. and A. Ottavino Corporation were hired to complete the restoration of the fountain made of light-colored limestone and granite.

The 136 year old fountain had its cracks filled in, lost pieces replaced, and its water pumping and lighting systems redesigned.

The gathering for the celebration included a performance by Italian-American Opera singer Michael Amante, delegates from Como, Italy, representatives from the Wildlife

Conservation Society, and those who made funding for the restoration possible, including Congressman Jose E. Serrano through the Save America’s Treasure Foundation. Funding was also accredited to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr.

“It is important to preserve the past for new generations. The Bronx Zoo is special throughout the world and this is a symbol of its history, of its past, present, and future. It makes us proud of who we are as a people,” declared Serrano.

Daniele Travi, present at the gathering to represent the Como government, expressed his sincere gratitude for the care of the Italian Fountain.

“Como and its people are deeply touched and proud that this symbol of Italy – and our hometown in particular – graces such a place of beauty and inspiration in New York City. Millions of people visit and can see where this comes from, there is a strong friendship between Como and New York City.”

For more information on the Wildlife Conservation Society visit

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