J. Fitzhugh Thornton Memorial Fountain

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

The drinking fountain topped with the statue of an Indian is located at the traffic circle at Thorton Avenue & Gracely Drive (known as Thornton Triangle) in the Saylor Park neighborhood. It is known by several names: J. Fitzhugh Thornton Memorial, the Fernbank Indian, Sayler Park Indian, and Tecumseh after the Shawnee leader who led the resistance against the American settlement of the Ohio and Indiana territories in the early 19th century.

It was erected on January 15, 1912 in the village of Fernbank in memory of John Fitzhugh Thornton by his wife Eliza. It was dedicated on June 22, 1912.

The flood of 1937, which followed the wettest January ever recorded, left 100,000 people homeless. It also left the drinking fountain partially submerged.

In 1940 the structure was struck by a car knocking the statue to the ground. Believed to be irreparable, it was sold to an antiques dealer in Indiana for $10. After a public outcry, funds were raised to purchase the statue from the dealer, and it was reinstalled on April 14, 1941 facing River Road until residents complained that it was facing in the wrong direction.

In 1965 it was again hit by a car causing damage and resurrected on Feb. 9, 1966 with substandard repairs allowing rust to cause deterioration of the statue. A call to restore it in 1979 was not heeded until 2000 when the park department decided to recast the statue in bronze. It was rededicated on October 5, 2003. The statue has been designated a local historic landmark by the City of Cincinnati.

The statue of an Indian was originally a wood carving created by Samuel Anderson Robb who was the leading cigar store Indian peddler. It was carved for William Demuth & Co. who cast it in zinc and advertised it in his catalog as “No. 53 Indian Chief.” In 1873, the J.L. Mott Iron Works purchased the design and listed it in their catalog of statuary. The statue was also offered atop a cast iron drinking fountain.

The fountain was manufactured by J. L. Mott Iron Works and sat on a circular plinth with dimensions of 5ft. 9ins. to the top of the head and 6ft. 6ins. to the top of the feathers. A large square base contained panels for dedication on four sides; the panel at the front of the structure contains the legend,  Erected In Memory Of / J. Fitzhugh Thornton / By His Wife / Eliza M. Thornton / January 15, 1912. Above is a lunette containing a frieze with lion mascarons. A column extends above with laurel decoration and guilloche. The capital supports the Indian figure.

In his right hand the Indian Chief holds an arrow, and in his left hand he holds a bow attached to a base near his left foot, which rests on a rock. (This stance is called contrapposto, where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed.) A tree stump behind his right leg balances the sculpture. He is dressed in a headband containing three feathers, a bear claw necklace, a cloak, a breechcloth (fabric tucked into a belt that covered the front and back), fringed leggings and moccasins.

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Glossary

  • Capital, The top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Frieze, The horizontal part of a classical entablature just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Guilloche, Decorative engraving technique of two or more bands twisted over each other in which a very precise intricate repetitive pattern
  • Lunette, The half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • 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.
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Posted on May 26, 2017, in Architecture, J. L. Mott, Memorial Drinking Fountain, United States of America and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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