The Vasbinder Fountain is a landmark in downtown Mansfield, but it is also a special bookmark among the pages of early memories of Mansfielders. People remember being near it as a child, and the memory is warm with sunny goldfish, and gentle raining waters, and their familiars who are smiling.
For people who grew up in Mansfield—in the first half of the 20th century—it really is a fountain of youth…because whenever they see it, or it comes up in conversation, they always start talking about when they were young.
“We came out of church and walked over to the fountain.” It is a memory seeded into a bed of well-being, and belonging; of family and identity. Back then you could amble into Central Park and it was like entering a green-canopied and shadowy kind of sanctuary—set aside for slow strolling and park benches made for conversation in the cool shade.
The noise, the traffic and confusion were outside: inside was tranquil and relaxing, an island of dancing shadows as the breeze passed through, and squirrels that darted and approached without fear in a protected grove.
In the middle of it—in the very heart where all the walks converged—was the sparkling waterfall like an upwelling from the very wellspring of the city, manifesting its essential and vital source. So vital and alive, to enter its aura was to have mist in your face, catching the sun like diamonds in your hair.
There was a pool around the foot of the fountain where gold fish curved and paraded in a mystic serenity just below the surface, like a glimpse into another world. Children loved the fish pool—its edges were low and rounded smooth with years and years of one foot up for a few reflective moments.
The Square was a sort of inner sanctum to collect oneself, and near the fountain it was a little damp, a little dark and slightly isolated by the natural rhythmic patterns of the rainfall. There were large urns made of stone, overflowing with flowers and colored leaves, that stood at the cardinal points of the circle in alignment with the Earth.
For grown ups the fountain was a refreshing retreat of delight and refinement tucked away in a world that didn’t always tend toward delight. For kids it was simply enchanting.