In 1875, the city of Davenport approved construction of a public fountain in a downtown park, declaring "it would be a thing of beauty and joy forever."
The fountain and the park that it graced, Washington Square, are long gone, but the city hopes to recapture some of its beauty. As part of a gateway proposed for the former site of the park at 2nd and Gaines streets, the city has commissioned an artist to sculpt a bronze likeness of the figure that once graced the top of the fountain.
The problem is that the artist, Jeff Adams, of Mount Morris, Ill., has little to work with as he goes about re-creating the sculpture, believed to be a personification of the classical "Lady of Germania."
As a result, planners are doing some detective work.
They are hunting for old photos, postcards or other images of the fountain and its statue that would help him in his work. So far, all they have is a grainy old photo of the fountain that shows little of the lady herself. They hope to find a close-up photo of her.
Ann Geiger, administrative assistant with the city's department of community and economic development, said planners welcome any family photos, which, of course, would be returned. "We just have nothing. The artist would appreciate anything else other than this grainy black and white we presently have," she said.
Adams' 8-foot-tall bronze sculpture would be the centerpiece of the Centennial Gateway, a landscaped plaza at the northeast corner of 2nd and Gaines streets, across the street from the German American Heritage Center, 712 W. 2nd St. Providing a backdrop for the piece would be a set of 10 columns with "Davenport" inscribed on a horizontal bar topping them.
The original statue capped the fountain, surrounded by a fish bowl, which stood at the axis of two diagonally paved walkways that crossed Washington Square. The statue depicted a woman standing with arms stretched out toward the levee as if welcoming immigrants disembarking from steamboats. At the time the fountain was completed, Davenport was home to thousands of German immigrants.
Amy Driskill, executive director of the German American Heritage Center, has researched Washington Square, its fountain and Germania. She said Germania, whom the statue is believed to depict, is an ancient symbol that personified strength, unity and liberty.
"To many, she represented Germany itself," she said.
By combing through old newspapers, she learned that on June 3, 1875, the city council appropriated $1,000 for the fountain. Citizens also contributed another $440 through a subscription. John Rowe was hired to build the fountain at a contract price of $1,500. The fountain's jets were turned on in May 1876.
Just what became of the fountain is not known, she said. Washington Square, home to other monuments, became the site of the Scott County Family Y in the early 1960s.
The Centennial Gateway, one of three gateways proposed for the city, would cost $135,000, with the sculpture costing $45,000. Funding is coming from the Iowa Department of Transportation, the Riverboat Development Authority and the Rock Island Centennial Bridge Commission. The project is scheduled for completion next spring.
"We want to resurrect a little piece of history that we lost," project manager Greg Albansoder said.
John Willard can be contacted at
(563) 383-2314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to help
Persons with photos or other images of the Washington Square fountain or its statue may contact:
Ann Geiger at (563) 326-7766 or email@example.com
Amy Driskill at (563) 322-8844 or firstname.lastname@example.org