Sterne Memorial Fountain

Location: Jefferson, Texas, USA

Jewish German immigrants Jacob and Ernestine Sterne, prominent leaders of the community, operated the local post office. In 1913 everyone in town attended the dedication of a drinking fountain by Eva Sterne in memory of her parents; “In the gift of this splendid piece of work lay the lifetime of a little immigrant girl grown to womanhood and the gratitude of her children to a little city that had given Mother and Father happiness.” In 1936, the fountain was still being utilized as originally intended; “…for the good of man, stock and dogs, and the pure water that flows through it was given to the Ladies of Jefferson by the late W.B. Ward in appreciation for their work done in the Prohibition Election many years ago.”

The 13½ foot high drinking fountain is located at the intersection of Market & Lafayette Streets, immediately to the south of the Carnegie Library. The fountain, cast by J. L. Mott Iron Works of New York, is described for man, horse and dog with a self-closing valve. The structure had an octagonal base which supported two large fluted troughs for horses and two demi-lune basins for humans within rectangular panels. Two small troughs at street level were fed with overflow water for the use of dogs.

A cornice beneath the drinking wells was decorated with palmette motifs. A dedication plaque is mounted above the basin at the front of the fountain. It states: Dedicated / In Honor Of / Jacob And Ernestine / Sterne / Who Lived / In This City / For Many Years / Presented / To The City / Of Jefferson / By Their Children / As An Expression / Of Affection For / Their Native Town.

1913 dedication

A frieze of rosettes sits beneath the upper cornice which is decorated with egg and dart molding. The capital is decorated with alternating acanthus and foliate bas-relief. The terminal is a bronze statue of Hebe designed by Guiseppe Moretti which was copyrighted to J.L. Mott in 1901. Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera, and goddess of Youth and Spring, who offered the cup of immortality at the table of the Gods. This version of Hebe is classically dressed holding a jug in her right hand whilst her other hand rests on her chest.

In 1982 restoration of the fountain was commissioned by the Marion County Historical Commission. It was re-dedicated and acknowledged with a Texas State Historical Marker erected on the south corner of the intersection which states; Sterne Fountain / Settling In Jefferson Prior To / The Civil War, Jacob And Ernestine / Sterne Became Prominent Leaders / Of The Community. Their Early / Management Of The Post Office / Here And Their Involvement In / Civic And Cultural Activities / Reflected The Dramatic Influence / Jewish Families Had On The / Development Of Jefferson. In 1913 / The Sternes’ Children Gave This / Fountain To The City In Honor Of/ Their Parents. Designed For Use / By People And Animals, It Was / Cast By J. L. Mott Foundry Of / New York. The Work Of Guiseppe / Moretti, It Features A Statue Of / Hebe, The Greek Goddess Of Youth.

Waymarking6

Glossary:

  • Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
  • Bas-relief, sculpted material that has been raised from the background to create a slight projection from the surface
  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Cornice, a molding or ornamentation that projects from the top of a building
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Egg and dart, a carving of alternating oval shapes and dart or arrow shapes
  • Fluted, a long rounded groove
  • Foliate, decorated with leaves or leaf like motif
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Palmette, a decorative motif resembling the fan shaped leaves of a palm tree
  • Rosette, a round stylized flower design
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal
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