So much history surrounds this fountain that I have decided to present the data chronologically.
Charlotte (Lotta) Crabtree, a talented child actress, who became a well loved Vaudeville performer, Charlotte (Lotta) Crabtreedonated the drinking fountain to the city of San Francisco, California, USA. It was dedicated by Mayor James Otis on September 9th.
The fountain was seated on a granite plinth. The base was in the form of a diagonal cross and the height of the structure was 24 feet. Two stone posts were installed at each corner of the base to protect the structure from vehicular damage.
The first section of the fountain (the font) was 4 feet wide and 3 feet high containing a semicircular basin on each of the four sides. Above each basin was a spring loaded brass door knob handle which released a flow of water from griffin masks. Black tin cups suspended on chains captured the water. Arch faceplates contained lunettes with lion head terminals.
Ornaments of Acanthus relief formed a separation between the upper and lower arch faceplates. Three medallions represented California’s leading industries of mining, commerce and agriculture; and a fourth medallion was inscribed, Presented/to the citizens/of/San Francisco/by/Lotta.
The center pillar was comprised of two attic bases with bands of alternating floral and fluted relief. It was surmounted by a gas lamp with two suspended side globes. The apex was a stem with three lilies and small golden balls.
As an animal lover, Lotta insisted that the fountain be used to quench the thirst of both animal and human. A small basin was therefore available for dogs and a trough for horses.
Records show that the fountain was shipped from Philadelphia and reassembled in San Francisco, yet the manufacturer of the fountain is unknown. An educated guess regarding the manufacturer of the fountain is Wood & Perot Ornamental Iron Works. Many of the decorative cast ironwork features in houses and gardens all over the country were produced by this foundry.
There is a suggestion that it was modeled after a set piece in an 1873 play named Zip; or, Point Lynde Light, by Frederick Marsden. The role of a young girl who lives with the lighthouse keeper and foils a plot to wreck a passing ship by blacking out the lighthouse was played by Lotta at Booths Theater in Manhattan.
The fountain survived the devastating earthquake of 1906 and ensuing blaze. When it was discovered that fire hydrants had not been maintained, assembly lines hauled buckets of water from the fountain in an effort to fight the fire. Hence, it became known as Lotta’s Pump.
The fountain also became a rallying point for survivors searching for news of loved ones.
Every year on April 18th at 5:12a.m., the moment of the main shock, a ceremony is held in remembrance.
On December 24th, the celebrated opera soprano, Madame Luisa Tetrazzini, held an open air concert in gratitude for the rebuilding of the city. A metal panel was sculpted by Haig Patigian to commemorate this occasion. An inscription reads, To remember/Christmas Eve 1910/when/Luisa Tetrazzini/sang to the people/of San Francisco/on this spot. The panel also contains a scroll with lyre and olive branch, and a left facing bust of Luisa. It was installed on the mid section of the pillar in 1911.
During a reconstruction of Market Street, which included the installation of new street lights, four additional bands were added to the pillar. This increased its height to 32 feet.
The Agriculture medallion was replaced with a plaque that reads, Reconstructed/by/the Path-of-Gold/Festival Committee/October/4-5, 1916.
When the column was extended, the side globes and the three lilies appear to have been removed from the apex.
On November 14th, San Francisco Traffic Law Enforcement recommended the removal of Lotta’s Fountain from the intersection at Third and Market due to traffic obstruction.
The pillar was temporarily concealed with a fundraising thermometer for the Community Chest organization.
The fountain was almost demolished by a drunken driver.
The entire structure was sandblasted to restore its original details. The Commerce medallion was lost during this renovation.
Originally located at the intersection of Third, Market and Kearny Streets, it was refurbished and moved ten feet after the renovation of Market Street. It is currently located on an island at the intersection of Market Street, Geary and Kearny Streets.
The water flow to the fountain was turned off during the epic 1975 drought.
The fountain was restored and rededicated on its 100th anniversary.
The structure was added to National Register of Historic Places on June 20th.
In February, the glass lamp blew off in a storm.
The fountain was completely dismantled and restored close to its original appearance. Bands were removed to return the fountain to its original height, and the structure was painted with a bronze coloured paint. The final cost of restoring the monument was shared by the city, the Art Commission’s Market Street Fund, and the California Federal Bank.
In September, a ceremony was held on the 124th anniversary of the monument’s original dedication.
Refurbished prior to the Earthquake Centennial Celebration in 2006 the San Francisco Arts Commission retained ARG Conservation Services to provide specialized conservation treatment for Lotta’s Fountain.
2014, current status
Drinking cups were removed due to concern over public health and the spread of disease. The removal date is unknown.
Three of the original medallions display gold rush miners digging for gold, a schooner ship, and a dedication: Presented/to the citizens/of/San Francisco/ by/Lotta/1875. The fourth medallion contains an inscription: Reconstructed/by/the Path-of-Gold/Festival Committee/October/4-5, 1916.
A plaque at the base of the fountain states: Lotta’s Fountain/Gift of Lotta Crabtree 1875/National Register of Historic Places 1975/The Fountain survived the 1906 Earthquake/at which time it became a meeting place/for people in search of their families/Restored in 1999 by the Arts Commission of the City and County of San Francisco.
Google Books: America’s Longest Run: A History of the Walnut Theatre