Sculptor: Olin Warner, 1888
This extremely attractive cast-iron fountain is named for Stephen
Skidmore, who wanted a fountain on this site to provide water for Portland's "horses, men, and dogs." Four granite cups were once chained to the fountain for that purpose, as Portland's Benson Bubblers were still decades away. The fountain itself is composed of a bronze basin held up by handmaidens and a column of granite. Lions' head spouts feed the horse troughs below. (There was a proposal to top the fountain with the likeness of the fire chief at the time, but the mayor nixed it.)
Olin Warner was a noted sculptor whose work included five gigantic heads depicting the human races for the Philadelphia train station. He also executed two life-size figures in the jamb of the archway to the Library of Congress; titled "The Students," it shows two flanking male figures, one old and one young, both reading.
* Henry Weinhard offered to run a hose from his brewery to the Skidmore Fountain in order to have it be a Beer Fountain on its opening day. City leaders, fearing for the welfare of horses (no mention of the dogs), declined the gracious offer.
As the heart of the city quickly moved away, the area around the Skidmore Fountain became so downtrodden that, in 1896, there was a concerted effort to relocate this fountain westward to a more vital district or to the Park Blocks. But despite the turmoil that swirled around it, the fountain's maidens still serenely hold their plate aloft, adding a dash of beauty to a once-crummy spot.
Stephen Skidmore (1838-1883) came with his family to Portland via the Oregon Trail when he was eleven, and he grew up to become a druggist and city councilman. Skidmore visited the 1878 World's Fair in France, where he was most impressed with the fountains' exhibit at Versailles. Dying from "consumption" at the age of forty-four, he left $5,000 of his estate for this fountain. Warner worked on the fountain during the same time that Skidmore's original Portland home was torn down just a few yards away.
Skidmore's business partner and friend, Charles Sitton, also died young. In 1891, he was found in his buggy with a handkerchief drenched in ether clenched to his face, the apparent victim of self-medication for migraines. He was forty-one. Not to be macabre, but Olin Warner also suffered an unusual fate. While bicycling in Central Park in 1896, he suffered a stroke and fell beneath a horse's hooves. The combination was fatal.
* The day the maidens burned: In 1957, city employees attempting to clean the bronze nymphs used acid, causing them dire harm and necessitating a full restoration.Less Text