Monthly Archives: November 2015

Charity Fountain

Location: New York, N.Y.S., U.S.A.

On the west side of Union Square Park between 15th and 16th Streets is a temperance fountain designed by German sculptor, Karl Adolph Donndorf, and cast by G. Howaldt, Braunschweig in Germany. The fountain was commissioned with the vision of charity and giving by Daniel Willis James who was a member of the Temperance Movement. The drinking fountain which was dedicated on October 25, 1881 is known as the Charity Fountain.

The structure is seated on two tiered circular plinth of polished red granite. The base of the drinking fountain is in the form of a compass cross with canted corners. A granite step is located in the recess on each side.

The drinking fountain is an octagonal pedestal with attic base which contains the inscription; A Donndorf Stuttgart. Four demi-lune fluted basins are flanked by salamander bas relief. Alternating inset panels above each basin contain lion mascarons that spout water. Dragonfly and butterfly bas-relief are positioned above the lion masks. Each panel is festooned with a swag. Originally tin cups offered water to passersby as an alternative to alcohol.

The cornice contains a frieze of doves and acanthus relief. The capital supports the bronze sculpture of a mother who is dressed in flowing robes and is standing contrapposto. She is looking down as she pours water from an urn in her left hand with assistance from a child. A second child is supported on her right hip. The sculpture representing kindness and love is seated on a circular base banded by leaf and floral guilloche.

The fountain was renovated as part of the reconstruction of Union Square Park in 2012.


Several additional castings were made of the sculpture. In 1892 the sculpture was erected in the town of Zwittau, Czech Republic and named the Maternal Love Fountain.

A third cast was given by the sculptor to his native town of Weimar in 1895.

A fourth casting erected in Stuttgart in 1898, named the Pauline Fountain, was smelted in 1917 to be used for the supply of war armaments. It was recreated in 2008.


  • 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
  • Bas-relief, sculpted material that has been raised from the background to create a slight projection from the surface
  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • Compass cross, a cross of equal vertical and horizontal lengths, concentric with and overlaying a circle.
  • Contrapposto, stance where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Mask/Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.