France, at that time, was a nation much admired by Savannah’s elite. When the city decided, in the late 1850s, to improve its new park, it did so with French parks and squares, as well as the idea of the boulevard-promenade, in mind. Inspired by the example of the fountains of Paris, Savannah resolved to obtain a fountain of its own for Forsyth Park, which would serve several purposes.
First, the water and its spray would provide a much-needed cooling factor during hot summer afternoons in the park. Second, it would serve as a decorative centerpiece for Forsyth Park in keeping with the then-emerging fashion for large items of ornamental ironwork as aids to domestic and civic beautification. Third, the fountain would provide a terminal focus of the Bull Street boulevard, of which the main path through Forsyth Park provided a continuation.
In March of 1858, Savannah’s council selected a committee to choose a suitable fountain to complement the other improvements planned for the park. The structure they chose was an ornate, cast iron fountain, its two tiers topped by a figure of a robed woman holding a staff. The basins are decorated with a relief leaf pattern, the upper tier more elaborately embellished with a scene of wading birds and rushes reminiscent of Georgia’s lowcountry landscape.
The fountain, as originally designed and installed, incorporates four spouting triton figures carrying shell horns (representing the mythological Greek messenger of the sea, half man and half fish), positioned on blocks at the immediate base of its lower pedestal. These have since been repositioned in the basin.
Brick paving, possibly to cut down on mud from wind-blown water, was installed around the fountain in 1860, and its ornamental perimeter iron railing within the next decade. The spouting swans in the basin and the urns at the pedestal base were added in 1870.
The fountain’s characteristic spray effect dates from 1873, introduced then as a water conservation measure. For many decades the fountain ran only in the afternoons, as it lacked a recirculator that made it reasonable to run it all the time without excessive water wastage. Full time operation of the fountain awaited the installation of a recirculating pump, added at some time around the 1930's.
After getting to the fountain, I was happy to find the right angle to capture this fountain with the sun behind me. :-)
Photo captured October 8, 2019.
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