Probable Cause Hearing Set In Main Street Fountain Destruction Case

Jason Graziadei •

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Photo by Jason Graziadei

More than three months after the driver of a white pickup truck destroyed the Main Street fountain, a probable cause hearing will be held Thursday in Nantucket District Court to determine whether any criminal charges will be filed.

To this day, no one has charged specifically with its destruction. But tomorrow, Nantucket District Court clerk magistrate Don Hart will hear arguments and evidence presented by the Nantucket Police Department in the case.

While probable cause hearings are typically closed to the public, Hart has indicated that this hearing will be open to the press to watch and report on the proceedings. 

In probable cause hearings - sometimes called "show cause" hearings - the clerk magistrate determines if there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and whether there is sufficient evidence to issue a complaint. 

"The police investigation has been concluded, pending any new information," Nantucket Police Department Lt. Angus MacVicar told the Current last month. "We have turned our investigation over to Nantucket District Court for their review and next steps."

Shortly after the crash on Main Street in late October, Nantucket police officers located the wrecked truck behind Holdgate’s Island Laundry, and arrested its owner, Michael K. Holdgate, after he returned to the residence in another vehicle while police were standing in his driveway. Holdgate was arraigned for drunk driving (second offense) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle but was never charged with anything connected to the fountain’s demise. MacVicar had previously told the Current that police were attempting to establish who was operating the truck at the time it collided with the fountain to an extent that will hold up in court.

“We need to know who was operating the vehicle with certainty and we don’t have that right now,” MacVicar explained last November. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish before we put forward charges.”

Police were looking at cell phone data and canvassing for additional audio or video of the incident and its aftermath to gather enough evidence to bring forward charges related to the destruction of the fountain.

While the town and the Nantucket Garden Club had worked together to set up temporary displays at the site where the fountain had been located during the holidays, those decorative installations are now gone and the bottom of Main Street is just a wide swath of cobblestones.

Shortly after the accident, the Nantucket Historical Association announced that it had updated its history on the fountain, including the fascinating anecdote that the monument had been "dislodged and knocked over" at least 13 times over the past 80 years.

"When it was reinstalled after repairs in 1968, it was placed further west on Main Street, close to the intersection with Union Street, in an attempt — ultimately unsuccessful — to move it further from harm’s way," the NHA's Michael Harrison wrote.

"The planter in the lower square of Main Street was originally a water fountain," according to the NHA's Michael Harrison. "It was donated anonymously to the town in 1885 and set up in January 1886. Its original location was on the north side of the street not far from the corner with Centre Street. Made of iron, it featured a main basin for horses to drink out of and a smaller trough near street level for dogs. Pedestrians were provided with cups, attached to the basin with chains, which they could fill from one of the four spouting dolphins that supplied water to the main trough. The water flowed 24 hours a day all year. A newspaper report from 1885 noted, 'the castings are extra heavy and the whole apparatus is strong and built in the best possible manner, and will not be damaged by blows of heavy vehicles.'

"The fountain was moved for the first time in August 1893 to the lower end of Main Street, near the Pacific Club, in response to a request from the Wannacomet Water Company. It was moved again in December 1923 because it had become an obstruction to traffic. The Board of Selectmen had it moved to lower Pearl Street (now India Street), opposite the Atheneum. After just a few months in that location, public complaints prompted the selectmen to move it back to a new location on lower Main Street, still near the Pacific Club but further west, out of the path of South Water Street.

"In July 1932, the selectmen renamed the lower square on Main Street in memory of Lieutenant Max Wagner. A bronze plaque was placed on the fountain to mark the square’s new name. Wagner (1866–1900), originally from Charleston, S.C., came to Nantucket with the U.S. Signal Service and worked his way up to head of the Weather Bureau office located in the Pacific Club building. He married Mary Jennie Macy of Nantucket in 1890; they relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1897. At the start of the Spanish-American War, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Volunteer Signal Corps. He served in Puerto Rico and then in the Philippines, where he was killed. He was buried on Nantucket in Prospect Hill Cemetery and the idea of naming the lower square for him came from his friends who were members of the local post of the United Spanish War Veterans.

"As the need to water horses decreased, the fountain began in 1935 to be used as a location for seasonal decorations and flower displays. In recent years, the Nantucket Garden Club has kept the fountain filled with seasonal plant displays. Locals also took to calling it a “silent policeman” after the traffic directions “Go to the right” were painted on it. These were later painted over when traffic on lower Main Street became one way."

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