Thursday, February 2, 2012

More About Venus and the Fountain


My interest in Venus and the original fountain piqued, I contacted City Historian Pat Fenoff to find out more and to correct any misinformation I might be sharing. Fenoff graciously sent me the text of this article from the Hudson Daily Evening Register for September 11, 1883. 

HUDSON PUBLIC FOUNTAIN
An ornament to the City and a monument to
Public Spirited Citizens. A Description of the Work of Art,
and who were Instrumental in Preparing it.

Now that the beautiful fountain in Public Park is nearly completed and our citizens have enjoyed the sight of "Venus Rising from the Sea," exhibiting in the most effective manner the power of our water supply, and proving that it can be put to ornamental as well as useful purposes, it is proper to speak in detail of this work of art, and award credit to those who were chiefly instrumental in procuring it.

The total height of the fountain, including the foundation, is eighteen feet. The pan is a gurgoyle octagon, eight feet five inches above the base: diameter of pan, eight feet eleven inches. The ground basin is twenty five feet in diameter. The foundation is of Coral Marble, handsomely cut, from the quarries of Supervisor Fred. W. Jones, and was donated by the energetic and public spirited gentleman.

The foundation is capped by a fine slab of Vermont marble, which was generously donated by Patrick Hoctor, of the Hudson Granite and Marble Works. From this rises the base surmounted by the figures, all in graceful proportion and artistic design. But to be fully appreciated, it must be seen when the water in full force is playing through its numerous jets and rising and falling in fantastic forms.

Mr. D. Martin Haviland is entitled to much credit for his persevering efforts in securing to the city not only this beautiful fountain, but the handsome park in which it is located. One of the most unsightly spots in the city has within a few years been converted into one of the most attractive. In this enterprise Mr. Haviland's efforts have been generously seconded by the Boston & Albany Railroad Company, the the action of our Common Council, by the contributions of citizens, and by the local press.

At the outset we said the fountain was nearly completed. It only lacks the finishing touches of the artist's brush. This, we understand, Mr. Silas W. Tobey, the veteran artist, has volunteered to do, and this assurance is sufficient guarantee that the work will be well done and in keeping with the fountain and its surroundings.

Fenoff also provided these notes about the fate of Venus in the 20th century, which correct a misconception of mine. I always believed, despite evidence to the contrary engraved on a plaque, that "Inspiration Fountain" commemorated the City of Hudson's bicentennial in 1985. In fact, it anticipated the bicentennial of the United States in 1976. 

In March of 1975 Hudson DPW workers removed the statue to the corner of 7th and Columbia Street. At that time a new fountain was planned for the park. The fountain was named Inspiration Fountain, lighted, with circulating water. This project was part of the Kiwanis Club beautification program.

The National Commercial Bank and Trust Company, and Hudson City Savings Institution each donated $500 toward the $2,500 cost of the fountain, as well as other local businesses. The work being done by the Hudson Department of Public Works. The fountain was dedicated May 3, 1975.

In July of 1978 the statue of Venus was knocked down and broken into pieces by vandals. Robert Allen of Philmont repaired the statue at a cost of $800. According to a letter from Roderic H. Blackburn, assistant director of the Albany Institute of History and Art, the statue was worth $3,000 to $3,500.

According to Blackburn, the statue appeared to be a late 19th-century sculpture of the Beaux Arts style. It is well modeled in the academic manner of the Beaux Arts tradition and is of high quality as a small public fountains go. According to Blackburn . . . the statue was worth preserving but properly restoring. At that time he wrote he was recently in one of the leading shops in New York which sells metal and marble garden statuary and found almost nothing that matches this piece in artistic quality.

In November of 1978 the statue was placed back in the park.

Two years later a car ran into the statue again damaging it. This time the damage was more severe. Robert Allen of Ghent was once again called upon for the task of repairing it.

In 1998 the statue was removed by DPW because of the condition the statue was in.

2 comments:

  1. After reading the 1883 article about the fountain in the public square, DPW Superintendent Rob Perry made this comment:

    If I read the first paragraph correctly, "exhibiting in the most effective manner, the power of our water supply" . . . it would suggest that no pumps we're involved (except at the river, as this predates the churchtown reservoir). So this would have been potable water from the clearwell atop Rossman Avenue, then through the fountain and into the sewer system, I would imagine.

    They might have been experiencing strong odors emanating from the sewer system . . . as is characteristic with low flows (more typical in a hot & dry summer) and have thought this a way to "flush" the system.

    Speculation aside, it really was a beautiful fountain!

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  2. With all the antiques and art in town we really should have a fabulous fountain there. Perhaps the antique dealers could come up with something or the city could commission a piece for the spot? A grant from the NYS council perhaps? There is fabulous art in towns all over Italy, why not here? The idea that times have changed and we can't afford to do these sorts of things anymore is so depressing... it's a symptom of societal, pathological thinking.

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