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Central Park's Water Fountains

New York City's famous Central Park hosts Seven Water Fountains!

There are seven ornamental water fountains in New York City's Central Park. They are the Bethesda Water Fountain (Angel of the Waters), the Pulitzer Water Fountain, the Sophe Loeb Fountain (Alice in Wonderland Fountain), the Cherry Hill Fountain, and three more ornamental water fountains located inside the three Conservatory Gardens: the elegant geyser fountain located in the Italian Garden; the Burnett Memorial Fountain (The Secret Garden Fountain) located in the English Garden; and the French Garden's Untermyer Fountain, the famed Fountain of Three Dancing Maidens.

The Bethesda Water Fountain (Angel of the Waters) is a neoclassical bronze fountain that was placed within "The Water Terrace" of Central Park in 1873, beside the lake and the grand fountain in its center, commemorating the arrival of Croton Aqueduct in 1842. The Bethesda Water Fountain is one of the most photographed water fountains in the world, and the Bethesda Water Fountain complex is considered one of the great works of nineteenth century American sculpture. An eight foot gilded bronze statue tops the famous water fountain, a neoclassical robed and winged female angel alighting on the fountainís top. With one hand she blesses the waters below, and with the other carries a lily, the symbol of purity. Surrounding the supporting basin holding the statue, encased by the fountainís cascading waters, are four four-foot cherubic figures representing Peace, Health, Purity, and Temperance. The cherubs stand against a stem modeled with cattails supporting the fountainís upper basin. The waters collect below them in another supporting basin, and then flow further downward into the fountainís base, a large, circular stone pool.

The Pulitzer Water Fountain was unveiled in 1916, and is located opposite the Plaza Hotel, in the Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. Modeled after the Place de la Concorde in Paris, the Pulitzer Water Fountain was named for newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who died in 1911, and who left $50,000 for the erection of the fountain. The fountain consists of six shallow granite basins that decrease in size as they rise towards the bronze sculpture in the fountain center. Designed by 19th century sculpture Karl Bitter, this fountain features at its apex a bronze Pomona, the Roman goddess of abundance. Rams' heads with horns of plenty flank the fountain, emphasizing the theme of wealth and material comfort. During the winter holiday season, lighted trees decorate the basin of the fountain, providing a festive touch to this fountain at the Park's Fifth Avenue and 59th Street entrance. In 1991 the entire fountain underwent a restoration complete with replacement of stone pieces, repatination of Pomona, and new plumbing for the fountain's basins.

The Alice in Wonderland Fountain, as it is widely known, was placed in Central Park in 1936 and dedicated to Sophe Loeb, a writer and social advocate for children. Sculpted by Frederick George Richard Roth, and originally a drinking fountain dedicated to Loeb, the reinforced concrete construct features Alice, the Queen, the Duchess, the Cheshire Cat, the Griffon, and the White Rabbit from the famous story by Lewis Carroll. In 1987 the drinking fountain was moved to the Levin Playground and refitted as the popular children's water feature it is today. The fountain is located at James Michael Levin Playground, at Fifth Avenue at 77th Street.

The Cherry Hill Water Fountain was designed in 1860 by Jacob Wrey Mould, who also designed the decorative elements for the famous Bethesda Terrace of Central Park a year earlier. Originally intended to be a scenic turn-around for carriages and a watering trough for horses at 72nd Street, west of Bethesda Terrace, the Cherry Hill Water fountain has become a place to admire the cherry trees in springtime with a lakeside view. The fountain features an ornamental finial on the top, gilded cups brimming with water, frosted glass globes for lighting, and a sculpted bluestone basin inset with Milton tiles. The other three ornamental water fountains located in Central Park are located inside the six-acre Conservatory Garden, which runs from 104th to 106th Streets, with an entrance at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street or 106th Street inside the Park.

The Burnett Memorial Water Fountain was placed in the Conservatory Garden's South Garden, which was designed in English style and planted for year-around interest. The bronze sculpture fountain, mounted on a stone base and placed on the edge of a small concrete pool that serves as a functioning birdbath year around, features two figures, a reclining boy playing the flute and a young girl holding a bowl, representing Mary and Dickon, the main characters from Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. The fountain was dedicated to Burnett, author of the children's classics The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy, in 1936, and was designed and created by Bessie Potter Vonnoh as a storytelling area in Central Park.

The Untermyer Water Fountain, in the Conservatory Garden's northern French-style garden, features the famous sculpture by Walter Schott, the Three Dancing Maidens. The bronze sculpture depicts a circle of three young women, with wet clinging dresses, dancing perpetually in the fountain's spray. Mounted on a limestone base, the fountain features one large jet of water in the middle of their dance, while two smaller jets appear on either side of the oval pool base. The circle of the sculpture and the elliptical pool forming the fountain base complement the gentle oval-shaped garden itself. The sculpture came to Central Park in 1947 after the death of Untermyer, and is a cast of the original, which was completed some time before 1910 in Germany.

In the Conservatory Garden's Italian-style garden, formal green lawn and clipped hedges are bordered to the north and south by crabapple trees. On the west side is a wrought-iron wisteria pergola sitting atop a series of yew and spiraea hedges. Rising in vertical contrast to the rows of hedges lies an elegant geyser fountain in front of the pergola. This fountain is a popular site for wedding photography, year around. In the spring, the Central Park Conservancy's Women's Committee Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon takes place, one of New York City's premier social events, whose proceeds benefit all of Central Park.

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