Brownlow Fountain, Lady of the Fountain, Part 2 Much Anticipated News: “The Fountain Is Now Bubbling”

Today's feature is a continuation of the one that began on January 26. The information from The Comet newspaper addresses the origin of Johnson City's Lady of the Fountain. I chose to quote rather than paraphrase it. My comments are shown in parenthesis. Forward me any remarks or questions you might have.

A Closeup of the Lovely Lady of the Fountain (aka Greek Water Carrier)


“Ladies Public Fountain Committee: Under Parks and Public Improvements, Rev. John T. Brown of the committee stated there was no definite report to make, but that the committee would meet with the Ladies' Public Fountain Committee, Mrs. James A. Summers, chairman, on Tuesday afternoon and take up the matter of purchasing and installing a fountain in the Public Square and otherwise improving the enclosed triangle.”


“The New Fountain for the Square: The fountain for the Public Square purchased by Mrs. James Summers and associates, as the result of tag day and other enterprises, is arriving and will soon be in place. When this is completed and the square otherwise beautified, it will be transformed from an eyesore to an ornament to the city. All honor is due to the good women who have had this matter in hand.”

(The fountain impressively made the transition from a proposed simplistic public water hole to a beautiful bowl with eight spigots for pedestrians, pans for watering animals and a statue that sold by the manufacturer as the “Greek Water Carrier” mounted above it.


“Fountain Now Being Erected, Busy with Foundation: Workmen are busy with the foundation and putting in the pipe line. The new bronze fountain will be useful as well as ornamental for all time. It will be only a few more days until the Public Square will be the most attractive spot in the city. This will be the best money that has been spent in Johnson City in a public way for a long time and the ladies, God bless them, are entitled to all the credit.”


“Gump's Rebuilding Sale: A full page advertisement elsewhere in this issue of The Comet will carry good news to many homes in this city where there are men and boys to be shod. For 29 years, Gumps has been a household word in Johnson City and vicinity and stood for clothing of quality. The business has grown steadily with the town and now has outgrown its quarters, in a sense.

“In other words, the house is going to put on a new front to make a suitable background for the Public Square when the handsome new fountain is placed. Contractor Curtis will begin remodeling the building on July 15 and to give his corps of workmen elbow room, this big sale has been inaugurated, the first in the history of the firm.

“The prices offered are astonishing when it is realized that only the highest class of clothing, furnishings, hats and shoes are carried in stock, advertised by the makers and standard the world over. You don't have to be your own judge to purchase at this sale, the brand on the articles tell the story. This sale will be a big success because the people know from experience that the Gump reputation is behind every article offered in the sale and the prices will do the rest.”


“Help Lift the New Fountain Debt: The fountain cannot be presented to the city until it is entirely free from debt. The committee is not willing to be responsible for the money necessary to complete the work. At a recent meeting, they decided to make a statement in the local papers so the people will know how their money is to be expended.

“Subscriptions can be left at Summers-Parrott Hardware Co. The list has already been started so bring your contribution at once and we can start the fountain to bubbling. Contributes on Tag Day totaled $527.50.

“The project cost $802.03: cost of the fountain purchased in New York (Lady of the Fountain portion was purchased in New York while the bowl came from a Lenoir City foundry), $515; Freight, $25.45; foundation, $63; concrete walkways leading to the fountain, $96; and two drinking troughs for horses, $74.50. Contributions from local businesses were Unaka National Bank, $15; Summers-Parrott Hardware Co., $10; Hart & Houston, $5; Wm. Silver & Co., $5; Bank of Commerce, $5; Dosser Brothers, $5; H. Gildersleeve $25; and Gump Brothers, $5.”

The Lady of the Fountain as It Appeared at Mayne Williams Library When It Was Located at the Site of the Old Downtown Science Hill High School


“Mrs. James Summers sent the following list of subscription since the last issue of The Comet: Watauga Electric Co., $5; Johnson City Traction Co. (streetcars), $5; William G. Mathes, $10; Frank Henderson, $5; Brading & Marshall, $10; Wofford Brothers, $5; Humane Society, $13.50; Charles Cargille, $3; and cash, $5.

“Money was also donated to provide two additional 8-foot walkways across the triangle to the fountain: M.I. Gump, $20; J.C. Paving Co., $5, P.Q. Miller (Justice of the Peace), $5; and W.F. Jones, $5.”


(The much anticipated news finally arrived.) “The Fountain is Now Bubbling: The water wagon is in constant eruption in this city now and forever more. Tuesday, the new fountain on the Public Square was connected with the reservoir and the bubbling drinking cups have been doing double duty since. When the additional walks now being laid are finished and the curb put in along the Southern Railway, the public can get a general idea of how beautiful the Square will look with the finishing touches of grass and flowers are added.”


“Elks Help Swell Fountain Fund: Johnson City Lodge No. 825 B.P.O.E. (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, also said to be the “Best People On Earth”) gave a check for $51 to Mrs. L. Armbrust this week to help pay the balance due on the fountain and improvements the ladies have undertaken on Public Square. This is the largest contribution from any organized body and was as thankfully received as it was cheerfully given. In this generous gift, the Elks have maintained their reputation for doing the proper thing upon all occasions, this proving their right to be known as the B.P.O.E.”


(An advertisement in the newspaper shows Tunnell's Studio no longer located on “Public Square” but on “Fountain Square.” It appears that the square was renamed about that time, which has remained until the present. Walter P. Brownlow must have been proud to have the fountain erected in his honor. He died on July 8, 1910, almost exactly one year after the fountain started bubbling.)

Walter P. Brownlow for Whom the Fountain Was Dedicated

(I conclude with one interesting observation. Mrs. James Summers, wife of former Mayor James A. Summers was instrumental in getting the fountain established downtown. She was also the one who acquired the statue when it was removed from Roosevelt (Memorial) Stadium for metal recycling. She took it to her garden in her new home in Henderson, NC and later assisted with its return to Johnson City. What a history the Lady has experienced.)