Wallace fountains are public drinking fountains designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg that appear in the form of small cast-iron sculptures scattered throughout the city of Paris. They are named after the Englishman Richard Wallace, who financed their construction. A great aesthetic success, they are recognized worldwide as one of the symbols of Paris. On a practical level, the water comes out of the top in a thin stream and goes into a basin in the bottom that is protected by a grate. It is a little tricky getting to the water, either stick in your hand or if you have one, use a cup. Originally two tin-plated, iron cups were attached to the fountain by a small chain, staying always submerged for more cleanliness. These cups were removed in 1952 “for hygiene reasons” by demand of the Council of Public Hygiene of the old Department of the Seine. Most of the fountains still present in the city still work, and distribute, contrary to popular belief, perfectly drinkable water. They are the rare points of free water in the city to the great relief of the homeless for whom they are a life-source and the thirst of passers-by.
Richard Wallace was born in London on June 21, 1818, the illegitimate son of Richard Seymour Conway, Viscount Beauchamp, later fourth marquess of Hertford and was given the surname Jackson. He spent his first six years in London after which his mother left him in Paris with his father and grandmother Maria Seymour-Conway, marchioness of Hertford and Lady Hertford’s illegitimate, son, Lord Henry Seymour. His grandmother brought up Richard with the eccentric Lord Henry as a companion. In April 1842, a month after his father’s succession as fourth marquess of Hertford, Richard had himself baptized in the Anglican church, taking the surname Wallace (his mother’s maiden name). When Lord Hertford died in August 1870, Wallace succeeded to his father’s collections and to his properties in Paris (2 rue Laffitte and the chateau of Bagatelle in the Bois-de-Boulogne), London and Ireland (the Lisburn estates).
The siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and the Commune in the early days of the Third Republic destroyed many aqueducts in the 1870s. The French Third Republic was unable and/or unwilling to help. The poor were unable to get water without having to pay for it. Richard Wallace had inherited a large fortune from his father in 1870, so he decided to help all Parisians. Wallace designed and financed the fountains’ construction, installing them after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71).
Richard Wallace designed the fountains himself and intended them to be beautiful as well as useful. After sketching up his own designs, Wallace commissioned Nantes sculptor Charles-Auguste Lebourg to finish the fountains’ artwork. The roof of each fountain is supported by four goddesses (or nymphs or caryatids): Simplicity, Temperance, Charity, and Goodness. I have looked carefully, the nymphs are all the same. The locations, as well as the color (a dark green, like all urban development of that era, in order to blend in with the parks and tree-lined avenues), were quickly decided upon by the city. In 1872 he donated 50 drinking fountains, known as Wallace fountains, to the City of Paris and to Lisburn, Ireland. There were 50 original Wallace fountains of the large design, and the city of Paris added 36 more. Sir Wallace believed that everyone had the right to quench their thirst for free and also hoped that his deed would be instrumental in the fight against alcoholism. The first fountain was opened in 1875.
Today a few revolutionary colored Wallaces can be spotted in the city’s 13th arrondissement. Dressed in pink, red, orange and yellow, the fountains in the area aimed to pay homage to an old French tradition, while showcasing a more contemporary face of Paris in the same time. The fountains operate from March 15th to November 15th – then they are turned off through the winter, painted every two years.
The small model are simple pushbutton fountains that one can find in squares and public gardens. This one is from Parc Bagatelle. Measuring only 4′-3″ and weighing 286 lbs, they were commissioned by the mayor of Paris more frequently than its older sister models and were not designed by Wallace.
From 1873 to 1885 Wallace had a seat in parliament for Lisburn (in Ireland), but he lived mostly in Paris. Later, Wallace spent an increasing amount of time alone at his Château de Bagatelle (in Bois de Boulogne in the 16th), where he died on July 20, 1890. He was buried in the Hertford family vault in the cemetary of Pere Lachaise, beneath the body of his great friend Lord Henry Seymour (no water fountain, I checked). Wallace left his estate to his wife Lady Wallace. On her death in 1897 she bequeathed the contents to England as the Wallace Collection and Hertford House in London became the museum.
I will include more fountains as I find them. The Bagatelle gardens, created by Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, the Commissioner of Gardens for the city of Paris, are the site of the annual Concours international de roses nouvelles de Bagatelle, an international competition for new roses run by the City of Paris in June of each year. They also have peacocks and exotic birds roaming around. I have a series of posts on the park.
Wallace Fountains: http://www.flickr.com/groups/wallace_fountains_paris/pool/
Wallace Collection: http://www.wallacecollection.org/
Société Française des Roses: http://societefrancaisedesroses.asso.fr/fr/actualites/evenements_salons_expositions.htm
Bagatelle Gardens: http://www.perso-jardins-bagatelle.net/indexenglish.htm