The D.F. Gorham Memorial Fountain - also known as Chief Kisco
In 1907, a successful, local businessman, David Fletcher Gorham, gifted to the Village of Mount Kisco its first piece of public art - a hand-crafted granite and concrete fountain, atop which stood the figure of a Native American. The beautiful pedestal and fountain were made by Gorham's Marble and Granite works on South Moger Avenue, likely the work of monument design artist George Walker.
The Native American figure, cast in zinc alloy, was mass produced and made by J.L. Mott Iron Works in New York City. At its dedication in 1907, the artwork was named the D.F. Gorham Memorial Fountain.
Mr. Gorham was a local leader of the temperance movement which was dedicated to promoting moderation or complete abstinence in the use of intoxicating liquor. His beliefs are reflected on the inscription on the base, “God's only beverage for man or beast.” He was referring to the water that filled the trough.
The statue, titled Indian Chief in the original catalogue, is representative of mass produced art from the industrial age. At the time it was created there was a boom in public art works to demonstrate that a town was important. Approximately 20 similar statues exist across the county.
The Gorham Fountain originally stood at the intersection of Main Street and Moger Avenue and served as a watering trough for horses. After being hit by a truck in 1925 and being repaired, the artwork was moved to its current location in Jeff Feigl Square, a more protected area.
Throughout the years, the Gorham Fountain has become a symbol of our village and the Native American figure has come to be known affectionately as "Chief Kisco." Although there was not a real Chief Kisco, myths abound of his existence. Some tell the tale of the brave Native American Chief who saved a young girl from a giant bear and won the love of a beautiful maiden. He wears the bear claw necklace as a token of that victory.
The statue does not reflect the Native Americans that lived in our area. Those indigenous to the Hudson Valley were a branch of the Delaware tribe called the Lenni-Lenape. To educate the public about the local Native Americans, local student Boden Bubb and the Rippowam Cisqua School are working with the Institute for American Indian Studies and the Center for Algonquian Culture to research and provide information for a permanent informational sign. The sign, along with a historical marker about the Gorham Fountain will be installed in Jeff Feigl Square.
After receiving quotes from various vendors, the Landmark and Historical Preservation Committee recommended local artisan Steven Roy for this restoration project. With more than four decades of experience, Mr. Roy has worked on projects for the White House, the Gettysburg Foundation, and many municipalities including: Chappaqua, New York; Morristown, New Jersey; North Hampton, Massachusetts; and Gloucester, Massachusetts.
The paint, which created an erroneous personification, will be stripped to the base which was crafted from a zinc alloy. Components such as broken fingers, feathers on the headdress, the bow, and a lion head on the fountain spout will be recast and affixed to the structure. The entire statue will be restored to a solid bronze color which was one of the original catalogue finish options.
How Can You Help?
We are accepting donations to help restore this public artwork and to help educate our community about the Lenni-Lenape tribe. The cost of restoring the statue is $16,000. The cost for informational signs and historical markers is $4,000. Those who would like to contribute can make donations by clicking on the "Donate" button below or by sending a check made payable to the "Village of Mount Kisco" to 104 Main Street, Mount Kisco, NY 10549. Please write Gorham Fountain Restoration in the notes section on the check.