Babylon Fountain

Location: Babylon, Long Island, NYS, USA

The drinking fountain in Babylon was erected at the intersection of Main Street and Fire Island Avenue/Deer Park Avenue. It was funded by the Women’s Exchange, a charitable organization formed to aid genteel women whose financial status had declined.

It was manufactured by Stewart Iron Works in Kentucky, referenced in their catalogue as ‘drinking fountain for man and beast #209’ with a cast iron base and bronze statue; the remaining structure was made of zinc.

On Memorial Day in 1897 a dedication ceremony was held with speeches and patriotic songs, and the American flag draping the fountain was removed. Water flowed from a spout in the base. It was considered a very handsome fountain which beautified the village.

A square base with four short columns supported a dog toothed acroter. Rosettes were carved into each panel between the columns. A single column pedestal contained four inset panels displaying two swans with raised wings that rested on an orb from which rose Neptune’s trident flanked by stylized flowers and bulrushes. Three sides of the structure contained a drinking vessel. At ground level there was a small trough for dogs surmounted by a sculptured dog kennel. A second kennel was also located on an adjacent side. A wide and deep trough decorated with acanthus was available for the use of horses (a dolphin like fish released water from its mouth into the horse trough.) A small basin for humans was decorated with large leaf pattern on the underside.

A multi-tiered acroter supported a 36″ tall statue of a maiden feeding a dove perched on her right wrist. With her left hand she gathers her robe on her hip creating a pouch that contains seeds. Her head is tilted slightly back and she holds a seed in her mouth.

In 1914 it was damaged when a trolley from a nearby hamlet overturned onto it. Three years later the State Health Department banned the use of public drinking fountains due to health concerns regarding infectious diseases. It was removed and a flagpole mounted in its place, and at this point in history the fountain became a lost item.

A duplicate fountain and statue was discovered in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and in 2009 a local committee undertook the task of reconstructing the fountain and founded a Facebook page, The Babylon Village Historic Fountain Reconstruction Project. Due to fundraising, a Suffolk County grant, and the generosity of the people of Ligonier to permit their fountain to be disassembled and the parts cast into molds; a non-functioning replica of the fountain was reinstalled in front of the Village Historical Society on Main Street.

The official unveiling which took place on Memorial Day 2011 mimicked the original ceremony. The Mayor of Babylon, Ralph Scordino, thanked Ligonier Borough for its civic dedication, compassion, and commitment to the preservation of American heritage. A plaque next to fountain reads: this historical reproduction would not have been possible without the help and cooperation of the people of Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

Glossary

  • Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
  • Acroter, flat base

 

Image Sources

http://thebabylonvillagefountain.blogspot.ca/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Babylon-Village-Historic-Fountain-Reconstruction-Project/161195615969

http://www.newsday.com/long-island/li-life/babylon-s-new-replica-of-1897-fountain-1.2914213#2

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