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Columbian Exposition Fountain Reinstated in Lincoln Park

By Paul Biasco | October 2, 2013 3:45pm | Updated on October 2, 2013 4:02pm
 A Columbian Exposition-era statue that had been stolen in the 1950s was reinstalled in Lincoln Park Wednesday.
Fountain Girl
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LINCOLN PARK — A fountain that was originally intended to provide attendees of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition with drinking water as an alternative to booze was reintroduced to Lincoln Park on Wednesday.

The decorative Fountain Girl statue had been moved around the city numerous times since its creation in 1893, but hadn't been seen since it was stolen from Lincoln Park in the late 1950s.

The bronze statue of a little girl was commissioned by the Women's Christian Temperance Union for the World's Fair in Jackson Park.

On Wednesday, a replica of the fountain was unveiled at the south end of Lincoln Park just south of LaSalle Drive and east of the Chicago History Museum.

"The piece was meant to provide pure drinking water as an alternative to liquor and provided refreshment to visitors, dogs and horses during the fair," said Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly. "Can you believe that?"

The water is once again flowing, but the park district doesn't recommend drinking it because of modern sanitary concerns.

Since the bronze figure was stolen right off its base in Lincoln Park in the '50s, the base had remained empty.

That was until an anonymous donor came to former park district commissioner Cindy Mitchell in 2007, hoping to bring the fountain back.

"She came to me and said 'I want to bring her back because I remember as a little girl playing there and I loved the sculpture,'" Mitchell said during the unveiling. 

Mitchell said the donor hopes future generations of kids will fall in love with the statue once again.

"Now that it's here, it's like it was never gone," she said.

The original statue, which was sculpted by English artist George Wade, was moved to the Chicago Woman's Temple at LaSalle and Monroe Streets two years after the Columbian Exposition.

It was originally funded by the anti-alcohol Woman's Christian Temperance Union with coins collected from children.

It was then moved to Lincoln Park near Lake Shore Drive and North Avenue in 1921 when that temple was demolished.

From there, the Lake Shore Drive reconstruction project sent it into storage in the 1930s before it was reinstalled in the 1940s just south of the LaSalle Drive underpass, according to the park district.

The stolen statue was never found. The new piece was molded using a copy found in Portland, Maine and funded by private donors and with money raised by the state, the park district and the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

"I had always assumed we couldn't do anything about it. She was gone, caput," Mitchell said.