Temperance Fountain

Location: La Grande, Oregon, USA

The statue located downtown at the entrance to the park in Max Square, at the corner of 4th St. and Adams Avenue, is an historical bronze reproduction of ‘Cast Iron Mary’, an original Temperance statue which surmounted a drinking fountain.

Dedicated on September 7, 1904, at the intersection of Adams Avenue and Elm Street, the fountain was funded by the town’s chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union to discourage the use of alcoholic beverages in a town that hosted 20 saloons, 6 bordellos, pool halls, gambling facilities, and a brewery.

With the advent of the automobile, the busy commercial intersection of Elm Street and Adams Avenue was paved in 1912, and the fountain was moved to the intersection of Depot and Fourth Streets.

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In 1916 Oregon’s Legislative Assembly prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol. Although the local brewery, bordellos and saloons closed, alcohol was still peddled in the form of moonshine by bootleggers. On the night of April 22, 1922, George Noble, a local bootlegger, who was fleeing from police, lost control of his automobile and crashed into the fountain. The bootlegger escaped unharmed, but the fountain was toppled and the statue crashed to the ground. Cast Iron Mary was decapitated. The fountain was not replaced due to a decline in its use, and the statue was repaired and sold to the officials of a Texas town.

A fund raising effort to re-erect the statue with a small drinking fountain was initiated as the Cast Iron Mary Project. A concrete pedestal was cast and a replica of the statue created from historical photographs. It was cast in bronze at Valley Bronze and installed at Max Square on 7 August 2003. The bubbler fountain was added in 2004 thus completing the project.

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The original drinking fountain was a casting by J. L. Mott Iron Works and was seated on an octagonal plinth. A single pedestal with canted corners supported two large fluted horse troughs above which were 3 rectangular panels for decoration or dedication. Two demi-lune basins for humans were located at each side within elongated rectangular panels. Drinking cups attached to chains were filled from dolphin mascaron spouts located beneath the cornice. At ground level there were small basins for the use of dogs.

The statue of Hebe holding a jug in her right hand with her left hand on her chest was the casting of a sculpture by Giuseppe Moretti. Although officially named “Temperance,” the town denizens called her “Cast Iron Mary.” She was mounted on an elaborately decorated octagonal base with an engraving W.C.T.U. 1904.

 

Glossary:

  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • Cornice, a molding or ornamentation that projects from the top of a building
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • 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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