What you probably don’t know about the Forsyth Park fountain
Is it true that Savannah’s beloved fountain was actually ordered from a catalogue? Here’s what you might not know about the fountain in Forsyth Park.
Whether a first-time visitor or a life-long resident, or whether sightseeing or taking a routine jog through the park, the opulent white centerpiece of Savannah’s Forsyth Park captivates the passersby and evokes a romantic European character – after all, the city’s plan adopts many municipal elements from Paris, France. To this day, Bull Street is Savannah’s promenade, bridging the livelier downtown to the recreational outlet that is Forsyth Park. Upon the park’s completion in 1851, Savannah’s elite sought to further strengthen their association with Paris by installing an ornate fountain as a focal element in the park, much like that of the Fontaine des Mers at the Place de la Concorde.
In the city’s effort to emulate Parisian urban planning, some details about the origins of the Forsyth fountain have been lost in translation. According to original historical placards, the fountain was an exact replica of the Fontaine des Mers. After all, it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. On the other hand, according to some misinformed tour guides, the fountain was ordered from a Sears catalogue – emblematic of the rise of mail-order shopping. However, this rumor is chronologically impossible, as the founders of Sears were not yet born. So, where did the fountain come from?
It is true that the Forsyth fountain was ordered from a catalogue, but it just wasn’t Sears. Intricate ironwork was gaining popularity, and a company called Janes & Kirtland Co. featured the model of the Forsyth fountain – called No. 5 – in their Illustrated Catalogue of Ornamental Iron Work. A representative from Janes & Kirtland Co. had seen Michel Joseph Napoleon Lienard’s creation for the J.V.P. Andre Iron Foundry of Paris, which showcased the fountain at the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the Crystal Palace in London, England. In other words, the Forsyth fountain was purchased from a catalogue that based their product design on a piece shown at an exhibit in London by a French designer for a Parisian ironwork company. Rest assured, somewhere down the line, the fountain has ties to Paris.
Onlookers to the fountain admire the baroque elements – the two-tiered basins trimmed in a relief leaf pattern with bird scenes and Greek mythical allusions. The craftsmanship must surely be unique even if the fountain itself is an imitation of another design, but alas, it is not. The same exact fountain from Janes & Kirtland Co. can be found in Poughkeepsie, New York, Madison, Indiana, and Cuzco, Peru.
Nonetheless, there are still many things that make the Forsyth fountain unique to Savannah residents. One such thing is the annual tradition of dying the fountain water green for the better part of March to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. The special quirks and personal ties made throughout the community in relation to the fountain are what make it one of the most iconic features of the Hostess City.