BELLEFONTE, Del. (AP) — Patricia Kostyshyn wants to know the meaning behind the quirkiest landmark in Bellefonte.
Why, why, why, is there a bathtub sitting on an island in the middle of the town’s main thoroughfare at Brandywine Boulevard and Bellefonte Avenue?
Kostyshyn, who lives in the town of roughly 1,193 people southwest of Wilmington, says it has been there for years.
Is it art? Is it an eyesore? Is it a subtle, subliminal “let’s keep things clean” message?
It’s a very nice, vintage-looking bathtub. The heavy clawfoot tub appears to be cast-iron and lined with white porcelain. Someone has even thoughtfully planted it with a lush variety of flowers and coleus.
It just looks kind of funny sitting there all by itself waiting for someone to fill it with warm water, and maybe some soap bubbles, and enjoy a long, relaxing soak.
That is after removing the dirt, flowers and plants. And only if you want to take a bath outside. In public. With the neighbors watching. And cars passing by.
Why, why, why, is there a bathtub on the street in Bellefonte?
Clawfoot bathtubs aren’t exactly cheap. A new one can set you back anywhere from $800 to $1,800 depending on its size, materials and weight.
And these kinds of tubs aren’t exactly economical.
Clawfoot tubs can hold between 40 to 60 gallons of water. That means one good soak could completely drain your 40-gallon water heater, according to Boston Standard Company, a plumbing business in Beantown where clawfoot tubs abound in the city’s older homes.
This tub isn’t going anywhere easily. A classic clawfoot tub made of cast iron with a porcelain finish can weigh between 200 and 400 pounds. Add water or, in this case, dirt, and it will increase to between 500 and 900 pounds.
That’s one heavy planter.
You can see the tub from the front yard of All American Roofing Co., but none of the employees could shed any light. The business has been at 1015 Brandywine Blvd. for four years, and they say the tub has been there since they moved in.
A manager at Bellefonte Cafe at 804 Brandywine Blvd. says he drives by the intersection almost every day and said he never even noticed a tub was there until he was contacted by The News Journal.
We turned to Town Hall to solve The Curious Case of the Bellefonte Bathtub. No one seemed to know, so they tossed it out to their Facebook community.
There was a suggestion that the tub marks Bellefonte history going back to around 1915.
According to News Journal archives, trolley service was needed for residents of Bellefonte because the suburban area was growing and transportation was needed into the city of Wilmington.
Brandywine Boulevard had a trolley line that connected Bellefonte to Wilmington, but by about 1950, buses replaced the trolleys.
When the service ended, Brandywine Boulevard went under construction. Cement remained on the street, and, as one legend goes, the tub was placed there so people wouldn’t hit it.
Yeah. No. That’s not it. Not at all, says Kathy MacDonough, a Bellefonte resident since 1993.
She says a tub has only been there since 2002, maybe even in 2003. How does MacDonough know?
When she was a town commissioner, she and few others thought it would be kind of funny to move a tub onto the traffic island.
“We decided to do it as a lark,” says MacDonough, who now serves on the town’s planning and zoning commission.
The first tub came from Teija Salmela, owner of the former Blueberry Hill Resale Shop. She ran the business from 1998 until she moved to Finland a few years ago. Her shop was located where All American Roofing is now. Salmela was known to collect large objects and had the tub in her side yard.
“I love old things. I hate to see anything go to waste,” Salmela once told The News Journal.
MacDonough can’t remember why or how she and several others got the tub to the intersection. “We either dragged it or used a forklift.”
The original tub, which began rusting over the years, might have been replaced around 2015, but MacDonough’s not quite sure.
Interestingly enough, the traffic island tub replaces two other former Bellefonte landmarks that have deeper and much more poignant Delaware history.
The traffic oval was once home to a monument listing the names of seven Delaware men who died in 1917 and 1918 during World War I. Near it was a “salute gun” owned by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Pugh-Lenderman-Chalfonte Post 2907.
Both are gone from the intersection.
While the monument was moved and remains outside the VFW post on Brandywine Boulevard, the 1,675 pound gun is only a dim memory. It was collected in 1942 and taken away as part of a nationwide World War II metal salvage effort, according to News Journal archives.
Meanwhile, the tub has remained for at least 15 years and MacDonough doesn’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.
Well, except that one time someone with a truck pushed it into the street in the middle of the night. And Susan Walton, owner of Bellefonte Vintage, recalls that her father, who worked as a consultant with an engineering company, temporarily moved the tub about 10 to 15 years ago because of some ongoing roadwork. He moved it back at Salmela’s request.
MacDonough says Salmela once planted flowers in the tub and decorated it for Easter, Christmas and other holidays. Russo Brothers plumbing contributed to the cost. In recent years, Bellefonte resident Patricia Anker has taken over the planting and maintenance of the tub’s flowers.
MacDonough thinks the quirky tub is staying put.
“The plantings are so nice. It’s become part of the scenery,” she says.
Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com
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