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Two courthouse fountains recalled

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

When the present Hancock County Courthouse was completed in the fall of 1888, two fountains were presented as gifts to occupy the northeast and southeast corners of the courthouse lawn.

The donors were Dr. Bass Rawson, Hancock County’s first physician, and B.F. Hyatt, another pioneer who owned a Findlay store.

Dr. Rawson presented a large fountain of a general nature, which was on the north lawn. Hyatt gave the county a fountain which provided drinking facilities and featured a boy standing with a leaky boot. This was placed on the south side of the lawn.

The Rawson fountain was a gift to the county, while the Hyatt fountain was a gift to the city of Findlay.

Descriptions of both fountains are given at the close of this historical account.

Both fountains were removed later on in the county’s history. The apparatus employed in their operation proved difficult to maintain properly, as the fountains aged, officials said.

In May 1903, the “leaky boot” fountain was moved from the front lawn of the courthouse to the rear at the south side to make way for the Civil War soldiers’ monument which was brought from Park Place and substituted for the water fountain. A year later, the water circulation system went bad and the fountain was taken down. Examination showed it was beyond repair and it never went back up.

When the Civil War monument went to Maple Grove Cemetery in 1935, county commissioners decided to also move the Rawson fountain, leaving the front lawn of the courthouse without adornment of any type. Commissioners tentatively decided to remove the fountain to the new Rawson Park adjoining Maple Grove Cemetery, which was just being developed and opened. The park had been named for Dr. Rawson, the fountain donor, and for this reason it was thought it would be well to take the fountain there. A base was built, but the fountain never materialized at the park. The base is still there.

The records say the water for the fountains came from a well below the courthouse and was pumped by a steam pump into a big tank at the top of the building. Later on city water was piped into the fountains.

Dr. Rawson died in 1891, some three years after making his gift to the county. He was 91 years old at the time of his death. The three-story building diagonally across from the courthouse bears his name. It was built in 1893, replacing another Rawson structure which stood on the same site, heirs of Dr. Rawson building the 1893 structure.

Hyatt died in 1897. His home was located where the old Kirk wholesale grocery building stands on East Sandusky Street, at Beech Avenue. When the grocery building was built in 1905, the Hyatt residence was moved to 845 Washington Ave., where it now stands. Hyatt was born in Findlay in 1840. The Hyatt family built the block which is just across the alley from the Rawson block on South Main Street, directly across from the courthouse. The Hyatt store was located in this block.

The design of the Rawson fountain was post-Renaissance and included figures of buys, swans, dolphins and Venus. Its name was “Venus Rising from the Sea.”

On the front of the base was the inscription, “Presented to Hancock County by Dr. Bass Rawson, Oct. 25, 1888.” The courthouse dedication took place two days later, Oct. 27.

The fountain’s grand basin, which was of Berea stone, with solid, cement bottom, was an octagon of 30 feet in diameter. In the center of this was the stone base, on which the ornamental bronze rests on four trusses. The base is 7 feet in diameter. These trusses were elaborately carved, and support griffin heads.

Resting on the base were four figures of boys who had just come from a bath, and are in various attitudes of dressing. One was in the act of drawing the drapery about him, having one foot encased. Another was sitting on the edge, with drapery gathered about his lower body. and was wiping one foot, which rested on the knee of his other leg. The third figure was also sitting down on the edge of the base, with loose tunic hanging from the shoulders. The fourth was a boy rubbing his hands with the water which he had dipped up.

Between these four figures were sea shells, a turtle, a snail and other marine objects, while above them two large swans sat with bills extended downward, and wings half opened.

A round receiving pan or basin, handsomely figured on all sides, was supported above the figures described, on a handsome column, and was 9 feet above the base, and 9 feet, 6 inches in diameter. In the center of this was the group of “Venus Rising from the Sea,” which was elaborately beautiful. Two urchins sitting on large dolphins held conch shells in their mouths, and from the shells were thrown sprays of water rising to the height of the chief figure, Venus.

The dolphins also spouted water from their mouths and their nostrils, making eight streams of water altogether. This water all fell into the pan, and from it dripped around the edges to the basin below, enveloping all the figures in the spray.

The figure Venus stood upon an immense shell, and was drawing her drapery about her form, one hand having been extended above her head and the other arm extended downward, both clasping the drapery, and presenting an almost unadorned figure of the human form divine. From the head of the Venus to the basin was 16 feet. The whole was of iron, bronzed.

The Hyatt Fountain contained this inscription on its front: “Presented to the city of Findlay by Benj. F. Hyatt Oct. 25, 1888.” With its drinking fountains, it was intended for use as well as for an ornament.

The design was entitled, “The Unfortunate Boot.’ The basin was of iron, octagonal, 12 feet, 6 inches in diameter. The height of the fountain was 5 feet, 3 inches, or including the basin, 6 feet. Height to top of drinking fountains was 3 feet, 7 inches. Height to drinking spouts was 2 feet, 11 inches.

There were eight drinking fountains, each having two spouts in the shape of lion’s head, and with places at the base for holding the drinking cups.

The chief figure was a boy dressed in pants, shirt and cap, the shirt sleeves rolled up to the shoulders. The boy stood erect on a large boulder in the center of a basin of water, and in one hand held above his head a boot which he had taken from one foot, and filled with water, and from the toe of which poured two streams, as the boot leaked. The other boot was on his foot, while both pants legs were rolled up to the knees. The boy’s honest face wore a look of intense satisfaction at his position.

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