302. Bartholdi Fountain

Bartholdi Fountain, officially titled the “Fountain of Light and Water,” is the creation of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. Standing 30 feet tall, the cast-iron fountain weighs over 30,000 pounds. 


Bartholdi designed the sculpture for the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia—the first World’s Fair held in the United States. 


After the exposition, Congress purchased the fountain for the U.S. Botanic Garden. It was placed on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, where the Garden was located at the time. The U.S. Botanic Garden and Bartholdi Fountain were moved to their present locations in 1932. 


Notice the sea nymphs that appear to be holding up the basin, and the turtles, fish, and large shells at the base of the fountain. 


The lights at the top of the fountain were originally gas lamps. In the 1880s, the fountain drew crowds of visitors in the evening because it was one of the few attractions in Washington to be lit at night. Now the fountain uses energy-efficient electric lights. 


If you are visiting in the winter, the water is turned off. But in warmer months, if you stand in the right location, you might enjoy a cool mist blowing from the fountain across the garden. 

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