Dry Ice Blasting & Cleaning Blog

Polar Clean Restores the Beauty of Studebaker Fountain

The Studebaker Electric Fountain has a rich history. A gift from John M. Studebaker installed in Howard Park in 1906, this elaborate South Bend fountain fell into disrepair and was dismantled in 1941.

The fountain’s pieces disappeared and were presumed to have been lost to World War II era scrap metal drives for decades.

But as salvaged pieces were rediscovered, an effort began to recreate the classical landmark, with its elaborate Edwardian-era iron figures of dolphin-riding boys and water-spouting turtles.

Photo: Polar Clean workers drape the fountain prior to abrasive blasting – photo Courtesy of South Bend Tribune (Robert Franklin, photographer)

Transformation into a Water & Light Ballet Fountain

As various pieces of the fountain, made by J.L. Ironworks of New York, made their way back as donations to The History Museum in South Bend, a committee was formed to raise funds for restoration. Replacement parts were created from the original molds, and the fountain was reinstalled in Leeper Park in 2019.

Age and hard water deposits that had built up on the fountain’s cast iron, zinc and aluminum components, proved to be an obstacle that ordinary cleaning could not remove, despite what the South Bend Tribune described as the “city maintenance staff’s weekly 8-hour efforts to clean the metal pieces.”

To restore the Studebaker Fountain to its former glory, the restoration experts turned to Polar Clean.

Studebaker Fountain Before Abrasive Blasting

Before Abrasive Blasting

Studebaker Fountain After Abrasive Blasting

After Abrasive Blasting

Expertise & Gentle Touch for Historic Restoration Cleaning

Deep expertise and patented cleaning techniques have made Polar Clean the go-to resource for many complex restoration projects. Dry ice blasting, capable of removing grime and build-up with no water, no mess, and no damage to delicate surfaces, is often the method of choice for cleaning and paint restoration of historic projects.

However, when our validation tests showed the fountain’s build-up would require a more abrasive blasting method, we employed glass-bead media and decades of experience with historic restoration – to restore the fountain’s surface to its original beauty.

Abrasive Blasting Techniques for Stubborn Buildup

Abrasive blasting is a solution that uses a wide variety of media, from walnut shells to glass beads, to attack stubborn stains and buildup. This requires careful containment and cleanup and can be applied in a wet or dry composition to ensure the right match between project and cleaning method.

In this case, a carefully applied glass abrasive media did the job. The results were spectacular and soon the newly clean Studebaker fountain was once again spouting water in a three-tiered “water ballet” in South Bend’s Leeper Park.

What Can We Restore for You?

Do you have a project that needs restorative cleaning? Contact us for a restoration cleaning assessment and quote, and to learn why so many historic restoration experts rely on the Polar Clean team to ensure the best results for their projects. Our training, certifications and expertise have made us a key resource for efforts that have left many landmark buildings, statues and other historic structures across the country looking grand.

Contact us to learn more about dry ice blasting for restoration