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Streetwise: Fountains of the Western Neighborhoods

by Frank Dunnigan
February 2024

Frank Dunnigan, WNP member and columnist. -
The development of the western portion of San Francisco was well underway by the early 1900s. In addition to basic amenities (utilities, paved roadways, street lighting, and fire suppression), city planners, housing developers, and others all contributed additional amenities, including public fountains, in their plans. Here are just a few such installations that dot the local landscape.

Fountain at St. Francis & Santa Ana with St. Francis Wood lots for sale and trees yet to be cleared, circa 1913 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
ST. FRANCIS WOOD #1 — The fountain located in the intersection of St. Francis Boulevard and Santa Ana Way predates most of the surrounding homes. Shown here in 1915, and still operational today, it was a public amenity installed by the real estate developer and is still maintained by the neighborhood association.

View of the steps and fountain of 'The Terminal' at top of St. Francis Boulevard at San Anselmo Boulevard in St. Francis Wood, 1920s - Marilyn Blaisdell Collection; courtesy of a Private Collector.
ST. FRANCIS WOOD #2 — A multi-level fountain designed with octagonal basins, planters, stairs, and a retaining wall was installed at the top of St. Francis Boulevard by the developer of St. Francis Wood in 1916. Shown here in 1920, the fountain gradually fell into some disrepair, but was eventually refurbished by the St. Francis Homes Association in 2008, and is open to the public with nearby bench seating added.

Phoebe Hearst fountain in front of the Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, October 12, 1960 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
PHOEBE APPERSON HEARST FOUNTAIN — Built in 1926 following the 1919 death of philanthropist Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the fountain honors the suffragist and mother of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. The fountain, shown here adjacent to the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse in 1960, has operated sporadically in recent times.

View of front courtyard at the Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, December 1971 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
ACADEMY OF SCIENCES/STEINHART AQUARIUM — Shown here in 1971, Robert Boardman Howard's sculpture "The Whales" at the center of this fountain was originally on display at the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE), held on Treasure Island in 1939-40. After the fair ended, the artwork was stored near the horse stables in Golden Gate Park. Thought to be an appropriate tie-in at the Steinhart Aquarium, the fountain was modified in the early 1950s to make the whales the centerpiece. The fountain once held live sea lions at the time of the Aquarium’s 1923 opening. In advance of the rebuilding of the entire Academy of Sciences complex early in this millennium, the fountain was removed and the whales were placed in a storage yard near City College of San Francisco. Unfortunately, there was significant damage to the artwork during the course of that move, and all the components have now been relocated to a storage facility in the East Bay, awaiting restoration funding and a new placement site.

View north of carriage circle with fountain, planter urns, and statuary at Sutro Heights, circa 1900 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
SUTRO HEIGHTS — The grounds of Adolph Sutro’s home at Sutro Heights above the Cliff House were willed to San Francisco upon the 1938 death of his daughter, Dr. Emma Sutro Merritt. Shown here in 1900, the many works of art — statues, planters, fountains — were removed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) shortly after the city’s Recreation & Parks Department acquired the property.

Two young girls standing in front of the Apple Cider Press statue on the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park, circa 1900 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
APPLE CIDER PRESS — This sculpture on Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse, designed by Thomas Shields Clark (1860-1920), originally housed a drinking fountain. It was part of the Midwinter Fair of 1894 and later acquired for the people of San Francisco by M.H. DeYoung. It’s shown here in 1900 being used by two girls. The metal drinking cups that were once chained to the basin at the front of the fountain have long-since been removed for sanitary reasons. The water component was shown to still be active as of 1960, but the fountain has been disconnected from its water source and has remained dry for many years now.

Temple Emanu-El courtyard with fountain, Ner Tamid (Eternal Flame), and entrance to the main sanctuary, Lake & Arguello Streets, October 12, 1960 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
TEMPLE EMANU-EL — This photo shows the fountain in the courtyard of Temple Emanu-El, at Arguello Boulevard and Lake Street, circa 1960. In the summer of 2023, the fountain was temporarily removed to allow for a large-scale renovation project that includes earthquake retrofitting, asbestos abatement, and construction of additional office space beneath the courtyard, while preserving historic artifacts and many of the original building materials. The entire courtyard and fountain are scheduled to be back in place in advance of the building’s 100th anniversary in 2026.

Sundial at Entrada Court with two mechanical sea lions in the pool, circa 1914 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
ENTRADA COURT — Built as part of the Ingleside Terraces development in 1913-14, the Entrada Court sundial originally contained two mechanical seals in a lighted center pool of water that was fed by a fountain, in what surely must have been a maintenance headache. Research indicates that the center fountain and its lights were gone by 1918, the area filled with soil by the 1920s and long-since surfaced with painted concrete. Read more about the sundial in this WNP article by Hamilton Barrett.

Waterfall on Monkey Island, San Francisco Zoo, July 26, 1956 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
MONKEY ISLAND — Built as a Federal WPA project at the San Francisco Zoo in 1935, Monkey Island was a fountain and waterfall paradise to more than 40 spider monkeys and a favorite viewing spot for zoo visitors over the years. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused damage that was estimated to require more than $500,000 in repairs. When that factor was combined with a trend to feature more natural habitats for the animals, the decision was made to demolish Monkey Island in 1995 and to transfer its residents to a new, more “outdoorsy” living space within the Zoo.

Rideout Fountain on the Music Concourse in front of the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, July 18, 1960 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
RIDEOUT FOUNTAIN — The Rideout Fountain was installed in the Music Concourse of Golden Gate Park in 1924, thanks to a bequest in the will of Corinna Rideout, whose family owned a chain of banks near the Northern California city of Marysville. Its composition includes images of a fight between a saber-toothed tiger and a snake, shown here in 1960 with the old de Young Museum in the background. In poor repair since early in this millennium, some of the fountain’s damage actually dated back to the World War I era. Restoration and repairs were completed and the fountain was once again operational by 2010.

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