Iowa W.C.T.U. Fountains

Location: Edgewood, Iowa, USA

This drinking fountain, located on the corner of East Madison and North Washington Streets, was erected by the W.C.T.U. (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) in the hope that a drink of cool water would prevent men from quenching their thirsts in the local taverns. It was dedicated in memory of Thera B. True who served the local union as secretary for 9 years and president of the local union for 19 years, before holding the office of district president for 10 years.

The drinking fountain consists of a four sided pedestal with panels containing a quatrefoil design with a small circle in each corner of the panel. A chamfered edge supports the upper pedestal containing 4 trapezoid panels for dedication, and an inscription, In Loving / Memory Of / Thera B True / From WCTU. A frieze of acanthus surrounds the capital which supports a fluted urn with egg and dart edge. Water is provided via a bubbler.

It was restored in 2015 due to the efforts of Rosemary Totman of Edgewood who purchased and renovated a bank building and the attached clock on the front of the building. Donations from local groups and individuals funded the restoration of the clock. With a desire to also restore the drinking fountain permission was given by the Town’s elders and completed using a portion of the funds raised to restore the bank clock. The fountain was re-plumbed by the City’s maintenance department and the surface finished by a powder coating company in Farley, Iowa.

Location: Shenandoah, Page County, Iowa

The second W.C.T.U. drinking fountain is located in downtown Shenandoah, a few feet from the flatiron building at Clarinda and Sheridan Streets. It was erected in 1912 to honour Mrs. Lavina Nichols, the founder of the Shenandoah W.C.T.U. Chapter.

The cast iron structure manufactured by J.L. Mott Iron Works consists of a four sided pedestal seated on a square foundation with attic base. Receptacles on three sides consist of two circular basins supported by scroll consoles and a third fluted demi-lune basin attached directly to the pedestal into which a lion mascaron spouts water. A small basin at ground level is available for the use of dogs. A dedication plaque on the east side is inscribed, Dedicated In Memory Of Mrs. H.S. Nichols, WCTU, 1912. And Also For God And Home And Every Land. Mrs. Nichols was the founder of the local W.C.T.U. chapter and wife of former Mayor H.S. Nichols.

A garland frieze sits beneath the capital which currently supports a lamp post with a neon sign identifying W.C.T.U., both of which were added to the structure circa 1922.

It is likely that the original lamp was in the form of an Olympic torch with acanthus relief, a framework of bands with Corinthian columns that terminated in four finials to create the form of a crown (this design can be found on a drinking fountain in Fredonia NYS).

mott lamp

The fountain was added to the National Register of Historic Places on 27 September 1984.

Glossary:

  • 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
  • Bubbler, a fountain with a tap which ejects a stream of water
  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Chamfer, a beveled edge
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Corinthian Column, a fluted shaft with flowers and leaves at the capital.
  • Demilune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • 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
  • Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter
  • Trapezoid, a square with only two parallel sides

 

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