Monday, September 14, 2009

Mysterious, Decadent, Spooky or Hidden DC, Part Two: The Temperance Fountain

A Temperance Fountain?

At 7th and Pennsylvania NW, just across the street from the Archives/Navy Memorial Metro stop, is one of DC's stranger monuments, the Temperance Fountain. Donated to the city in 1882 by dentist Henry Cogswell, it was one of a number of such fountains constructed in various cities (I think I've seen a photo of one in San Francisco) with the goal of providing water as an alternative to alcoholic beverages.

The dolphins would spew water, and there was a brass cup that one could use to scoop up water for you or your horse to drink. Well, I think they're supposed to be dolphins, even though they have scales.

Carvings on the side extol such virtues as Hope, Charity, Faith, and (duh) Temperance, but like the Temperance Movement, it was not taken terribly seriously. Long regarded as the ugliest monument in DC, the city tired of keeping it up and let it run dry, and for a long time the Apex Liquor Store stood nearby. Savor the irony.

Me? I'll give it a break; it's a fun ironic reminder of the past, and it has a heron on top. I like herons. (Why a heron? It's symbolic of water, just like the dolphins.) I'm told there's a Cogswell Society that donates money to maintain the monument, but don't think for a minute they're a subsect of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Instead, the Cogswellians are said to meet for boozy lunches, then stagger up to the monument, and declare loudly, "Here's to temperance! I'll drink to that!" Sounds like my group of people.

I'm featuring this partly because recently I met Garrett Peck, author of Prohibition Hangover. Garrett leads Temperance Tours of downtown DC, starting at the monument, so if you're in the area, keep an eye open for the next tour date. And check out Garrett's main site for other info.

But I've always been fascinated by this little forgotten bit of DC, and I've explained it to a number of people, and now you know as well.

I have other photos waiting to be shared, and books to review, and experiences to chronicle, so stay tuned...


Garrett said...

Thanks Vagrarian! The next tours are this Saturday and Sunday, September 19 and 20 at 12:00 noon. Identical tours both days. They run three hours + happy hours (and book signings!) follow.

izzit said...

Hi, found your creepy description of Dumbarton Oaks fig.
Read Ghosts: Washington Revisited if you haven't already. Meticulously researched, with a reporter's eye for politics, democracy & scandal.
I assume you went to Congressional Cemetery.
And see if you can get inside the Heurich mansion, if they haven't cleaned it up.When I went it was dark & dusty, and a granddaughter told me of an invisible late-night piano player on the blacony, among others. (I thought the dead mouse under the piano was a great touch, but they probably don't have that anymore.)
See if you can get a volunteer to show you behind the scenes in the gigantic Smithsonian buildings, too.