Fountain reflects Monticello’s past

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

A currently little-noticed artifact from Monticello's not-too-distant past may be getting a bit more recognition in the future.
Standing largely forgotten and neglected in the shade of the crepe myrtles on the west side of the 1914 Masonic Lodge on South Cherry Street is a water fountain that harkens back to the era of segregation.
Commissioner Eugene Hall recently approached the Monticello City Council with a request that the fountain be recognized with a small token. In was his understanding, Hall said, that the fountain had been reserved for the use of black theatre patrons in the days when the Masonic Lodge was a movie house.
“It'd be good to identify and acknowledge the fountain with a plaque,” Hall said.
Councilman Troy Avera alone responded. Avera said he didn't have a problem with placing a small plaque near the fountain to recognize it, so long it didn't prove controversial in today's social climate.
“I don't have a problem with it as long as the language on the plaque doesn't separate us,” Avera said. “I don't want to do anything that's divisive.”
Jack Carswell, with the Jefferson County Historical Association, offered his organization’s help in bringing about the recognition.
The rest of the council members more or less assented to Avera's observations and indicated that the request would be considered and likely granted.
Local historian Dee Counts affirms that the building was a movie theatre from the 1920s to the 1960s. During the era, she says, African Americans had to sit on benches in the balcony to watch the movies. She said she wasn't 100-percent certain, but it was her understanding that the water fountain had indeed been for the theatre's black patrons.
Counts noted that the theatre had been briefly reopened in the 1970s, but by then there wasn't a market for its B-movie offerings, she said.