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Memorial Fountain

Memorial Fountain at Vilas Park (1926 ca)

Wisconsin Historical Society ID: WHi-51976

Annie Stewart Fountain

In the late 1880s five young Madison women – Mary and Elva Bryant, Molly Vilas, Annie Storer, and Annie Stewart – took turns mending discarded clothing to distribute to the poor. One day Edwin Bryant saw them descending from his attic laden with clothing and called them the “attic angels.” The name stuck.

Annie Stewart (January 17, 1867 - April 8, 1905), who suffered from depression, took her own life. When her mother Mary died a few months later, she left $2,000 to the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association to erect a fountain in Annie’s memory. On May 16, 1925, the Capital Times reported the project was finally done.

“The completion of the Annie C. Stewart memorial fountain, which the city has been awaiting for more than fifteen years, has at last been realized and the fountain now stands facing Erin Street, making a picturesque entrance to the southeast end of Vilas Park.
The fountain was designed by Frederick J. Clasgens, Cincinnati, Ohio. It has a concrete bowl 21 feet in diameter, with three figures in marble, a sea nymph and two dolphins, in the center. The arrangement of the figures is such that water is constantly flowing from conch shells, held in the hands of the dolphins, into small basins. The shells serve as drinking fountains. Later it is planned to put fish in the small bowl.

For years after the bequest had been made, the Park and Pleasure Drive Association could not decide on either a suitable site or design for the memorial. Furnishing the fountain with water would also entail an expense which the city council could not be prevailed upon to countenance. When Ernest N. Warner became president of the association in 1912 it was his intention to decide on a design and site. The contract was finally made with the sculptor, Mr. Clasgens, on March 9, 1917.

With the coming of the war, work on the fountain was again suspended. When Mr. Clasgens was ready to resume it, prices had mounted so high that the memorial cost considerably more than the Park and Pleasure Drive Association had contracted for.”
Clasgens died on April 7, 1955, at 2120 Jefferson Street, his sister’s house, and was buried at Resurrection Cemetery.

Mark Gajewski