BC-TX--Waco Neighborhood Fountain

Louis Garcia, chairman of the Waco Hispanic Museum, describes the unearthing of a fountain that once served the Calle Dos neighborhood.

A project to excavate and preserve a century-old fountain that once served the now-vanished Calle Dos neighborhood is back on track with help of a local charitable foundation.

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation this month awarded $25,000 toward archaeological work and improvements that could help turn the buried “La Pila” fountain into a historic attraction, possibly with a historic marker.

The Waco Hispanic Museum last year used a $2,500 grant to begin the archaeological work, but the money ran out before work could be completed. The new grant will allow that work to continue starting in February. Museum officials also hope to use the grant to create sidewalks, benches, fencing and interpretive material that could tell the story of the fountain and the Hispanic neighborhood that was razed during Urban Renewal.

“We felt this was really important for the Waco community, specifically for the great history of the Latino community,” said Tom Stanton, executive director of the Rapoport Foundation. “Generally, we all tend to forget the past and history, not only specific individuals that were key and critical members of organizations, but also communities.”

He said he hoped that the meticulous archaeological work would lay the foundation for a Texas historical marker for the fountain and the vanished neighborhood.

Katherine Turner-Pearson, the archaeologist who is supervising the project on a pro bono basis, agreed that the site is a good candidate for such a marker.

“I think we have a very good chance of it,” she said. “I would try to get it for the whole neighborhood. … There’s no doubt in my mind that this one is deserving of a marker, and I don’t think you could do it without discussing the neighborhood.”

From archived news articles, it appears the city of Waco constructed La Pila and two other fountains along the Brazos River in the course of digging water supply wells more than 100 years ago. Soon afterward, a Hispanic neighborhood grew up around Second Street, also known as Calle Dos, and the fountain became a social hub and a place for washing and bathing.

Turner said the analysis of the excavated artifacts and the final report could take several years. She said the clock is ticking on the state antiquities permit she took out for the dig, so she is grateful to the Rapoport Foundation for getting it off high center.

“I think it’s phenomenal,” she said. “I’m really excited that someone stepped up to help them. I was worried about how it was going to get done.”

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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