In the late 19th century, four artesian wells were the only source of potable water in Monroe, North Carolina, U.S.A. As traffic increased over the years, drainage from the street caused the wells to become polluted creating a health hazard. The solution to providing sanitary water was the purchase of two cast iron drinking fountains in 1899 from the J. L. Mott Company of New York City which were installed on the grounds of the Union County Courthouse in 1900 at the corner of Jefferson and Hayne.
A photo of two soldiers drinking from the fountain at the corner of Main and Franklin Street was published in the Charlotte Observer in October 1941. The caption read: The drinking fountain pictured below is on the courthouse square at Monroe. It and another like it were placed there about 1900 and were condemned about 20 years ago because of not being sanitary. With the demand for drinking fountains, the fountains have been modernized and are in operation again.
The 5 feet 5 ½ inches high, 300lbs, fountain was advertised as a drinking fountain for man and dog. The structure was a highly decorated circular pedestal seated on a square plinth. Decorative relief is in the form of shells, fruit and flora. Lion masks on two sides spouted water from the City’s newly installed waterworks. A tin cup affixed with a chain provided access to the water that drained into two small basins. Two bowls at the base of the pedestal provided water for animals.
With the advancement of society, the fountains became redundant and were placed in storage. When Mark Watson, a courthouse historian, discovered them he thought they would be a great centerpiece for a new exhibit planned for the public. In 2012 the Public Works Department received approval from the County Manager to have the fountains restored by Robinson Iron, an Alabama company, that owns the original plans and specifications from J. L. Mott.
The neglected fountain was missing the pineapple finial symbolic of hospitality, the lion masks, bowls, and parts of the decorative detail. Robinson craftsmen replicated and recreated these items. The structure was dressed with a zinc rich pre-primer followed by an epoxy primer and an acrylic polyurethane finish which was antiqued to accent the high relief of the ornament.
The placement of the restored the fountain was to be determined by Public Works, most likely within the Union country government center.