East Drinking Fountain

Location: Austin, Texas, USA

An artesian well was built over the Trinity aquifer in 1889 to supply water to the Capitol. In 1903 a cast iron drinking fountain with overhead electric light fixture was placed over the well to provide the public with a drinking source. It is located on the east side of the great walk leading to the Capitol building’s main front entrance.

The canopied fountain was manufactured by J.W. Fiske of New York. Seated on a circular base with four stanchions, an elaborate pedestal supports the fluted basin. Four narrow columns with beaded detail and attic base support the solid dome. The capitals are acanthus. The terminal is a fish scale post with a large central globe and four smaller globes located in compass directions. The interior of the dome contains a cone shaped obelisk, with open lattice work and acanthus relief, which releases water into the basin by pressing on a foot lever. The fountain visible today is a reproduction. The original fountain offered a metal cup suspended on a chain.

An information plaque located nearby relays the history of the fountain. “The artesian well completed at this site in 1889 furnished an ample and inexpensive water supply for the new Capitol. At a depth of about 1,550 feet, natural pressure forced water from the Trinity aquifer to the surface. The powerful flow of water satisfied drinking, sanitary and fire protection needs for the Capitol. A coal-fired boiler converted the well water into steam, which turned the building’s first electric generator, and circulated through radiators to warm the Capitol’s interiors. The abundance of well water for irrigation made possible the first landscape improvements, including a lawn of sod and more than a 100 new trees. A cast-iron drinking fountain placed over the well in 1903, provided continuously running well water and metal drinking cups hanging from chains. Convinced that the mineralized water possessed medicinal value, visitors hauled it away in bottles for the next 73 years. In 1928, a granite water fountain replaced the cast-iron fixture. Officials closed the well in 1980 due to more stringent water quality standards. This reproduction fountain, installed in 1996, provides safe drinking water with a gentle step on the root lever.”

Glossary

  • Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
  • Attic base, a column base with two rings
  • Obelisk, a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top
  • Stanchion, upright bar or post providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

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Image Sources

https://www.flickr.com/photos/auvet/6223378189/

http://www.matthewbollom.com/2012/06/texas-state-capital/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/courthouselover/3575083016/

http://www.christoperj.com/2012/03/austin2012-texas-capitol-grounds.html

http://myaustinview.blogspot.ca/2014/02/texas-capitol-artesian-well.html

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Posted on July 22, 2014, in Architecture, Cast Iron, Drinking Fountain, J. W. Fiske, United States of America and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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