Sunday, September 12, 2010

Taking care of animals old skool

I went for a long run and a walk/run/walk through old parts of town yesterday and I stopped with my camera in my favorite neighborhood. It is full of hills and surprises. My friend Cindy and I had discovered a fountain last month in a small patch of grass separating two streets in this residential area. This fountain is new to the neighborhood, so I snapped a photo on my cell phone and did a little research. What I discovered was interesting, but I can't find any information on Des Moines' fountain. I don't know who is responsible for the placement and slow restoration.

Here is one of the lion's head spigots from which water once flowed. These fountains were given to cities across the country by the Humane Alliance about 100 years ago. The top trough was for horses, particularly working horses pulling carts and such. The bottom trough was for dogs and any other animals.

You can see that the bottom of this fountain isn't going to function with water anymore. I see no place for water to flow into those little arches at the bottom. The photos will show you what they originally looked like. There's a photo online of this in what is probably the original placement and it has cups at the bottom of each arch where a dog could stick its nose. The photo makes it look like this was near Waveland Cemetery, but the site (linked below) says Des Moines had two fountains. One at Pennsylvania near Grand Avenue and another at West 8th and Cherry Streets. I don't know which one this is or what happened to the other. Again, I can't find local information on this fountain.

From another web site that admits it took information from the web site through the link below, here is a summary: "Fountains (watering troughs) similar to this one were constructed in Vinalhaven, Maine (an island off the coast from Rockland) and presented to cities by the National Humane Alliance. Mr. Hermon Lee Ensign left his fortune to the Humane Alliance, which he founded to carry out his ideas for the welfare of animals. His childhood love of animals grew and became the dominating interest of his life. He acquired his fortune through twenty years in the advertising business. He created a “new” form of newspaper advertising – headline reading advertisement. The fountains, which are not all identical, are made of granite and weigh approximately five tons. The large horse bowls are six foot across and the fountains are over six feet tall. At the base, there are four small water bowls for dogs, cats and other small animals. Most of them have dates from 1906 to 1911. In total, at least 70 fountains were distributed across the U.S. and one was discovered in Mexico. This is one of the few that have been restored." Taken from

Take a look at this page to see if your community had one that has a photo included in the gallery. There is the info on this page and then another link toward the bottom with a more complete listing:


Cha Cha said...

Ooh - how interesting! Kudos to you for noticing and investigating a gem. I love little unobtrusive bits of history like this.

Rambling Woods said...

How interesting....The closest one to me is about 90 minutes away in Rochester NY...I liked this post Caron....Michelle

Pat Meiners said...

The other Ensign horse trough in DM is the only one known in the country that is still and has been continuously used and in its' original location. It is on the Nat'l. Reg. of Historic Places. It is at SE 11th & Scott Street. Here is a better photo (although the info isn't correct). Pat Meiners, founder, Des Moines Historical Society