Posts Tagged ‘wallace fountains’
Throughout the city one comes across these dark-green fountains, familiar to all Parisians, and often a source of curiosity for visitors during the torrid summer months. Many ask themselves, are these safe to drink out of? Can we refill our water bottles with these and without fear catching some waterborne disease? Well, the answer is yes. These fountains provide, and have provided, clean water for over 100 years now, after the philanthropist Richard Wallace donated considerable time and money into erecting these now emblematic fountains throughout Paris.
Richard Wallace was an Englishman and philanthropist who made Paris his second home in the latter half of the 19th century. After the city had been ravaged during the Franco-Prussian war it was quickly rebuilt. But the aqueducts remained destroyed, and with the rising cost of water, many poor were left with little option. Some turned to alcohol.
Wallace came up with the idea of strategically placed fountains that would provide a source of free, clean drinking water for everybody. He hired sculptor Charles Auguste Lebourg to design the fountains after his own detailed sketches.
The first two models were built, combining the harmonious aesthetic wishes of Wallace along with functionality. They followed his original conception, namely that they be beautiful and useful: they were designed to be tall enough so that they could be seen from a distance, but not so tall that they ruin the harmony of the urban landscape; the form had to be pleasing to the eye (e.g. the feminine forms inspired by Renaissance art); they had to be affordable so that many could be installed; and they had to be resistant to the elements.
To this day, except for the winter months from 15 November to 15 March, when the fountains are shut off to avoid freezing, the Wallace fountains are a life source to the denizens of Paris, especially the homeless, who sometimes have no other source of water.
A curious fact for fans of the Jeunet film, Amélie, is that the melancholy building concierge, Madeleine Wallace, was named so because she was always “crying like a Wallace fountain”.