Tractor trailer crashes into, destroys Geneseo Bear fountain

Photo: Bob Lonsberry

Geneseo, N.Y. - The village of Geneseo was distressed to wake up and find a tractor trailer crashed into the Bear Fountain on Main Street Thursday morning.

Police said the crash happened shortly after 6 a.m. The area is blocked off, making it difficult to get through.

They say there were no injuries, but there is extensive damage to the fountain.

According to our news partners at the GeneseeSun.com, Gordon Gay, 49, of Rochester, was ticketed for Failure to Keep Right for a Traffic Island, a violation. He hit the fountain at about 24 miles per hour.

Built in the 1880s, the statue named 'Emmeline' has been around since the Grover Cleveland administration. Those in the community said they will rally to restore her, but with her own trust fund, the repairs will not be difficult to come by.

"People are devastated, I've seen people crying, in tears, beside themselves with what has happened here," said Kurt Cylke, a board member for the Association for the Preservation of Geneseo.

Police say the driver was neither distracted nor speeding, just had trouble getting the truck around a bend in the road.

"At this point, it appears to have been operator error," said Geneseo Police Chief Eric Osganian. "We are still conducting a thorough investigation."

According to our partners at the Genesee Sun, local historical societies keep records of the fountain and Emmeline, the bear, so that she can be reconstructed.

The Emmeline Austin Wadsworth Fountain, or the Bear Fountain, is one of the most iconic landmarks in the Geneseo area. In the mid-1880's, the fountain was commissioned as a memorial to the mother of Herbert and William Austin Wadsworth.She suffered only a few scrapes, but the fountain below her was knocked off its base.

One lifelong resident of Geneseo reflected on the time his family has spent around Emmeline over the years.

"We come down at Christmas time. We decorate trees around the bear. The bear is just a part of who we are," the man said.

"This is a tragedy, but a tragedy in a community that rallies,"Cylke said.

The community said this trust fund bear will live on thanks to an endowment of $45,000 set aside for the restoration of Emmeline if something like this were to happen.

"We did 3D printing of the statue. We have the ability to reproduce pieces of the fountain in exact detail. It's just a matter of getting the right people in the right place," said Cylke.

"He was kind of clairvoyant along that line. It's going to be rebuilt in a hurry," said Village of Geneseo Mayor Richard "Dick" Hatheway.

"This is going to be a beautiful thing to see," Cylke said. "You're going to watch an entire community come together and begin the restoration process."

A prestigious restoration group in New Jersey will be coming to Geneseo next weekend to begin repairs.

The bear does have its own camera looking down on Main Street, as well as a Facebook page and a custom charm by a local jeweler popular with Geneseo graduates.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by the Association for the Preservation of Geneseo.

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