Thursday, November 03, 2011
Depending on who's counting, the Palace of Versailles has more than 1,400 fountains. Due to the enormous amount of water required to fuel them, they are turned on infrequently. Even at the time of Louis XIV, the water supply was inadequate to run all of the fountains at once. There was even talk of diverting the River Eure to supply water to the fountains.
Sunday afternoons from April through October, there is the Grandes Eaux, a musical fountain show in the gardens to the accompaniment of recorded music. Although I have been to Versailles twice, I was not fortunate enough to experience the spectacle. Paris has 350 fountains; to a visitor from the United States, they seem to be at every turn and virtually are.
New York City has a much less lavish feel to it, as observed by one of my Swedish clients, which I wrote about in Very Practical. Fountains will never be a priority here, although it certainly was for George Vellonakis, architect for the redesign of Washington Square Park. Upon reconstruction, the central fountain was moved to be centered with the Washington Square Arch as viewed coming down Fifth Avenue. George was virtually crucified for this, the cost of which was often misrepresented since the fountain needed to be dug up for plumbing work anyway, with the additional cost of moving being incidental.
But to me, the entire fiasco and controversy is just indicative of the fixation of Americans on the bottom line, even if at the cost of aesthetics or the occasional jubilant indulgence.
As I wrote in Let's Have a Parade, in the light of hardship, it often is hard to justify celebration. After all, there is always a better place to spend money.
We do not have a large number of fountains in New York City, but there are a handful. Conservatory Garden, the fountain and the gilded statue of Prometheus in the sunken plaza of Rockefeller, the fountain cascade at Rockefeller Center, the fountain at Columbus Circle, the Pulitzer Fountain at 59th and Fifth Avenue, Angel of the Waters Fountain at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, Temperance Fountain, Tompkins Square Park, James Fountain at Union Square Park, City Hall Park Fountain, and Washington Square Park.
Here, at Father Demo Square at the intersection of Carmine Street, Bleecker Street, and Sixth Avenue, is a tiny park with a beautiful charcoal gray stone fountain as centerpiece. The park completed a renovation in 2007 and is an ideal resting spot located in one of the most intensely trafficked areas of New York City, surrounded by a plethora of restaurants and shops. It's ideal for people watching, a rest after dinner, or a place to eat a snack. Or, for those inclined to indulge, enjoy one of New York City's very few fountains :)