People who know me well probably know that I’m very partial to San Francisco. Thus I’m always pleased to find Wyneken connections to the “city by the Bay”. One such connection is Lotta’s Fountain, located at the intersection of Market Street where Geary and Kearny Streets connect. Most of the people who walk or drive by it every day are unaware of its history.
Lotta’s Fountain was commissioned by Lotta Crabtree (1847-1924) in 1875. The architecture firm of Wyneken and Townsend was responsible for designing and building it. The Wyneken in this company was Leopold Ernest Wyneken, whom I have mentioned in a previous blog post.
The name Lotta Crabtree has long since been forgotten, but during her lifetime she was fabulously famous, even known as “The Nations’s Darling”. She began her entertaining career dancing, singing and playing the banjo for gold miners in California and Nevada. She became very wealthy and moved to the East Coast in 1863. She “mastered the suggestive double entendre long before Mae West”.
Lotta has an article in Wikipedia. In 1951 a movie was made based on her life, entitled “Golden Girl”. Another article in the Internet provides more details about her life. This last article relates the important role Lotta’s fountain played in the aftermath of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906:
For thousands of Bay Area residents racked with worry and woe in the hours and days after the 5:12:38 a.m. tremblor on April 18, 1906, Lotta’s was a very, very low-tech sort of Internet. People went to the bronzed Beaux Arts column to learn who was dead and who wasn’t, who was hurt and who was still sound of body (if not mind), and who had gone off to camp in Golden Gate Park or distant Palo Alto.
The fountain also has articles of its own in Wikipedia and Atlas Obscura.
I remember my family and me visiting my parents in the SF Bay Area in around 2001/2002 and making a pilgrimage to downtown San Francisco to find the fountain. I got out of the car and walked around it taking pictures while the rest of them drove around the block until I was done.
Picture of the fountain: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/Lotta_Crabtree_Fountain_2012-07-29_15-02-47.jpg, By jdlrobson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Picture of Lotta Crabtree: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/LottaCrabtree.jpg,
By The original uploader was Billinmn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Lampak using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, Link