The Borland Bird Font was placed in South Park to honor and recognize James B. Borland for his leadership of the committee in charge of Franklin’s very successful 1925 Old Home Week. Borland was the founder of the Franklin Evening News and later Managing Editor of the News Herald. He was a booster for the city of Franklin and spearheaded the efforts to hold the first Old Home Week in 1905.
Borland was named “The Lion of the Hour” during and immediately after the 1925 Old Home Week. His enthusiasm and determination and the hard work of the Old Home Week Committee resulted in greatly increasing attendance with an estimated 5,000 people gathering for the opening day ceremonies. In appreciation of Borland’s efforts to make Franklin’s third Old Home Week so successful, a new self-appointed committee announced in the News Herald on Old Home Week Friday that funds were being raised to purchase a testimonial to Borland. Readers were invited to donate to the fund. After the fundraising ended, the committee decided that the testimonial would be in the shape of a bird font, in recognition of Borland’s love for nature and bird watching. They chose to locate the bird font and two benches in a spot in South Park (also known as Bandstand Park) directly opposite Borland’s office window, which was on the other side of Liberty Street in the News Herald building.
The font was unveiled on May 21,1927 before an audience of several hundred people. The Franklin Rotary Boys Band entertained the crowd prior to the ceremony. Speakers, including Mrs.T.A. Irwin, President of the Franklin Civic Improvement Society, stood on a flag draped platform that had been erected near the bird font. The audience included many of Borland’s newspaper friends and others who came from out of town for the occasion. Committee member Frank G. McIntosh made the presentation. The unveiling was performed by Nita Mae and Ralph Calvin Murrin, the children of James A. Murrin, Borland’s nephew. Newspaper friend and fellow nature-lover! Frank F. Murray of Titusville addressed the crowd, as did Tom W. Gerber of New York, representing Karl A. Bickel of United Press Associations.
Sadly, the bird font has been vandalized several times. After it was damaged in 1946, the City of Franklin purchased a replacement for the font which was placed in the same location in South Park in 1948. According to an article that appeared in the Derrick on September 8, 1948, the new bird font was larger and more ornamental than the original and had a group of fish entwined around the pedestal. The original statue of the boy with the goose was installed in the new font.
Franklin Preservation has twice purchased and donated replacements for the basin and pedestal portions of the small monument after it was vandalized in 1992 and again in 2008. In May 2013 vandals once again knocked over the bird font. This time the statue of the boy carrying the goose over his shoulder was badly broken. Adam Guthrie of the Huff Guthrie Funeral Home generously arranged and paid for its repair. In the latest incident, which occurred in the spring of 2022, the lower bird bath was once again broken. Franklin Preservation is raising $2,000 to replace the broken font basin, pedestal and base. In addition, we will have a cast made of the boy and goose statue in the event that the statue becomes so damaged that has to be replaced.