150 Boise icons: City Hall Fountain

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 17, 2013 

0517 local icon fountain.JPG

Did you know? A Mrs. W. S. Chipp, president of the local temperance union, had the honor of presenting the fountain to the city in 1910. She said, “The WCTU believes water to be the greatest necessity of life, it having been demonstrated that while one can be deprived of food for days, water must be had.” The group had worked to enact “No Liquor Sundays” in Boise saloons and restaurants in 1902.

ANNA WEBB — awebb@idahostatesman.com

This fountain once stood in front of Boise's original City Hall on the southeast corner of 8th and Idaho. You can make out the fountain in old photos.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union gave the fountain to the city in 1910. The gift was part of the group's campaign against alcohol, said city historians.

The group installed what came to be called "temperance fountains" throughout Boise, mostly in front of saloons.

Few fountains of this type remain. Almost all were melted down during World War II so their metal could be used in the war effort. City historians believe this fountain survived because it had been painted. The paint camouflaged that it was metal.

Still, a rather surreal 1931 Statesman story titled "Inanimated Interviews" included a quote from the fountain itself. The fountain was none too happy with the paint:

"It took many ice cream socials to pay for me. I resent the gilt paint which is put on me from time to time under the direction of well-meaning but ill-advised city officials, for I am real bronze and would still be a beautiful thing if only some way could be found to get the paint off and permit me to be my natural self."

When the old (and still-mourned) City Hall was torn down in the 1950s, workers moved the fountain to 150 N. Capitol Blvd., near the Statehouse.

The fountain moved again in 1980 to its current location on City Hall Plaza. Several women who were present when the temperance union gave the fountain to the city in 1910 took part in the rededication.

In a move that must have delighted the aging fountain, the Boise chapter of the National Organization of Women stripped off its paint and renovated its plumbing.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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