Did a Failed Experiment lead to Lancaster’s Fountain?

The arrival of summer means downtown Lancaster will once again be filled with people attending events, shopping, dining, or just taking a stroll to admire the beautiful sites. One of the sites that always attracts a lot of attention is the large fountain on the southwest corner of Broad Street and Main Street. The running water and park-like setting offers the perfect spot to sit and relax. It’s easy to see why it remains a popular location for residents and tourists alike. Although most people are familiar with the landmark, few may know its history, where it came from, and when it was installed.

The old Market House located at the corner of Broad and Main Streets in Lancaster, Ohio, circa late 1800s.

The old Market House located at the corner of Broad and Main Streets in Lancaster, Ohio, circa late 1800s.

The four corners of Broad and Main were set aside for city use by Ebenezer Zane and his sons when they laid out the City of Lancaster. The fountain occupies one of these corners and the other three contain City Hall, the Gazebo, and Veterans Park.

Prior to the fountain, the corner housed a market house. This was a place where vendors would gather and sell their goods to the public. It also served as a meeting location for the Lancaster Lodge of Freemasons. Charles Sherman, the father of General William Sherman, was the Master of the Lodge and consecrated it in 1824.

Over time, the market house became too small to meet the needs of the growing city and was replaced with a different one closer to Memorial Drive. The now vacant market house was destroyed and the lot sat empty for a number of years. In 1882, a local merchant brought back a decorative item from New York that would serve as the inspiration for what we see on the corner today.

Andy Bauman was a well known businessman in the city and, among other things, operated a three-story business on Main Street, where Ale House 1890 operates today. It included a restaurant, bakery, grocery store, and department store.

During a trip to New York, Bauman saw a restaurant that had a fountain in its lobby. It was a popular meeting spot for New Yorkers and he decided to recreate the idea in Lancaster. Bauman purchased a fountain and installed it in the second floor restaurant of his Main Street business, hoping it would attract diners.

Unfortunately, it did not attract the attention he was hoping for so he moved it to the front lawn of his Wheeling Street home. Now easily in public view, the fountain caught the attention of several ladies and sparked an idea. Soon after, the ladies formed a committee.

J.W. Fiske Catalog cover - J.W. Fiske was a prominent maker of ornamental iron fountains and statues in the 1800s.

J.W. Fiske Catalog cover – J.W. Fiske was a prominent maker of ornamental iron fountains and statues in the 1800s.

In 1888, the Ladies Fountain Committee began raising funds to purchase a fountain to be placed on the vacant lot on Broad and Main. The committee included Andy Bauman’s wife, Anna, and they were very successful in raising the funds necessary to purchase a grand landmark.

By 1890, they had raised $2,015 and the city added $1,200 for the support block, flagstone, and construction of the pool basin. The $3,215 amount is roughly $90,000 in today’s money and Andy Bauman was sent to New York to find the perfect fountain.

At this time in history, J.W. Fiske & Co. was the most prominent manufacturer of cast iron and cast zinc items. The company manufactured decorative fountains, statues, urns, furniture, and more. Fiske even published a popular catalog showcasing his work from the company’s operation center in New York. When it was time to purchase a fountain for the city, this is where Bauman found it.

Fiske had constructed a fountain based on one that was located in Etain, France. The 24-foot tall structure included four cherubs riding dolphins that spray water, a 10-foot diameter middle basin with three cherubs at its center, and a 7-foot diameter basin topped by a 7-1/2 foot female that holds a jug pouring water. Bauman selected it as the piece that would fill the spot where the market house once stood.

Dedication of the Zane Square Fountain in Lancaster, Ohio in 1890

Dedication of the Zane Square Fountain in Lancaster, Ohio in 1890

On July 17, 1890, the fountain was turned on for the first time at its dedication. The celebration included speakers, music from the Cadet Band, serenading parties, and wheelbarrow races. Lancaster Mayor C.W. Parido accepted the fountain for the city and for over 130 years it has remained a focal point for residents and visitors alike.

The next time you find yourself relaxing in front of this beautiful structure you’ll know that it is here, in part, due to a failed experiment to attract customers to a restaurant!

Interesting Facts

Each of the four cherubs at the bottom of the fountain holds a seashell in one hand and the other hand is empty. Originally, these empty hands held tridents, the 3-pronged spear held by Neptune. They were removed for safety reasons.

Photo showing original fountain cherubs holding tridents in the Zane Square Fountain in Lancaster, Ohio.

Photo showing original fountain cherubs holding tridents in the Zane Square Fountain in Lancaster, Ohio.

There is a “sister” to our fountain located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Fiske made two fountains based off of the one in Etain, France. The one is Halifax has only one water basin as opposed to Lancaster’s three. It is named “Diamond Jubilee” in honor of Queen Victoria’s 75th year of reign and was installed in 1897 (7 years after Lancaster’s).

The Jubilee Fountain in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada - a mirror of the Zane Square Fountain in Lancaster, Ohio.

The Jubilee Fountain in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – a mirror of the Zane Square Fountain in Lancaster, Ohio.

If you enjoyed this story, read more from Michael Johnson by becoming a supporting member of the Fairfield County Heritage Association. He authors the Association’s quarterly publication which includes stories like this one.

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Filed under: Histories & Mysteries, Life, News
Michael R. Johnson, marketing director for the Fairfield County Heritage Association based in Lancaster, Ohio.

By Michael Johnson

Lancaster native Michael Johnson is the Marketing Director for the Fairfield County Heritage Association and serves as editor of the Heritage Quarterly – a magazine highlighting local history. Michael is a member of the Sherman Rotary and the Lancaster Fairfield Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee. His bachelor’s degree in history education was earned at Ohio University. Michael is married to Tara Johnson and has two children, Isaac and Mia.