Friday, October 4, 2013

Francis M. Drexel Memorial Fountain


Francis M. Drexel Memorial Fountain, 1881-82
Henry Manger
Drexel Square
Drexel Boulevard and 51st Street (Hyde Park Boulevard)

            The oldest public sculpture in Chicago, the figure at the top of this elaborate fountain represents Francis M. Drexel (1792-1863), Austrian-born banker, real estate speculator and founder of brokerage house Drexel and Company, based in Philadelphia. Although Drexel did not live in Chicago, he owned land in the city and donated a portion to be used as a boulevard bearing his name. Drexel’s two sons, Francis A. and Anthony J. Drexel, commissioned Henry Manger, a Philadelphia sculptor from Germany, to create this $40,000 bronze and granite monument. The four bronze bas-relief panels feature the god of oceans, Neptune, riding a dolphin, as well as other figures representing lakes, rivers and springs. In 1888, the Drexel brothers funded the addition of jets to allow water to run continuously in the fountain. 
          Following a series of restorations over the decades, the fountain suffered neglect and was inoperable until the early 2000s, when the Chicago Department of Transportation and Public Building Department performed the repairs necessary to allow the water to flow again.

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