Carter Memorial Fountain

Location: Ashland, Oregon, USA

This memorial drinking fountain on Main Street East was donated to the city of Ashland by family members in honor of Henry and Harriet Carter, an Iowa couple who settled in the city and founded the Bank of Ashland. It was dedicated in 1910 and is a principal feature of the Downtown Historic District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The fountain containing a 12 foot pedestal and a 5 ft. 4 in. statue was manufactured by J. L. Mott Iron Works and sat on a double tiered rectangular plinth. A large square base contains a small well for dogs on all four sides at ground level, and a trough which surrounds the pedestal. On four sides, there is a lunette containing a lion mask within armoria, flanked by acanthus. A column extends above with fleur de lys armoria, laurel frieze and two consoles bearing globe lanterns. As seen in photographic evidence, the lanterns changed shape possibly with the introduction of electricity. The current lamps reflect the original globe style. The capital supports a statue representing a pioneer holding a downward facing flintlock rifle in the crook of his right arm whilst shading his eyes with his left hand. Originally his right leg was relaxed whilst the left leg bore the weight of his stance (this stance is called contrapposto). The statue was nicknamed Iron Mike, and contrary to this nickname, it was actually made of a zinc alloy.

The fountain and the statue have suffered numerous instances of vandalism and damage. The plumbing was damaged in 1932 when the structure was hit by a car. An electric fault from an underground cable in 2013 caused a power outage in downtown Ashland and created a light show as sparks flew out of the top of the statue. ‘Iron Mike’ has been vandalised several times by people compelled to climb the fountain. He has fallen to the ground causing breaks in the leg, arm and gun. His right arm has been ripped off twice, and his hand and gun which recently went missing were found several blocks away.

Repairs which were made in the 1980s to his leg also changed his stance so that both feet are now flat on the pedestal. Ashland Forge reattached the gun in 2002; and in 2008, the statue was discoloured by flames when a man climbed the statue and burned an American flag to protest the Iraq War. The damage and repairs have had a cumulative effect of weakening the statue and cracks have appeared on the leg, knee and foot. The 105 year old statue was removed from the fountain in 2014 to evaluate the cost of restoration.

Glossary

  • Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
  • Armoria, shield, coat of arms, crest
  • Capital, The top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Console, A decorative bracket support element
  • Contrapposto, stance where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed
  • Frieze, The horizontal part of a classical entablature just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Lunette, The half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Plinth, Flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
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