New York is a city of enchanting water fountains. Some of the most beautiful were intended for horses, thousands of which packed the streets daily for three centuries, doing the labor needed to build the city.
All these horses needed places to rehydrate, like the Hamilton Fountain at Riverside Drive and 76th Street. Funds to build the fountain were bequeathed to the city by Alexander Hamilton’s great-grandson, a rich property owner, who died in 1890.
“Crafted from Tennessee marble, the lavishly carved fountain, composed of separate masonry units, is surmounted by an eagle with wings spread, beneath which are decorative motifs, a coat of arms, a dolphins’ head spray feature, a shell-shaped spill basin, and a larger foliate catch basin,” writes the New York City Parks and Recreation Department.
“Created for ‘man and beast,’ the fountain was evidently intended primarily as a drinking fountain for horses, and was erected during an era when the streets of Manhattan were frequented by thousands of horses on a daily basis.”
Horses working uptown in Washington Heights could get a long drink from the Hooper Fountain, at 155th Street and Edgecombe Avenue.
When businessman John Hooper died in 1889, his will indicted that two fountains should be built “whereat man and beast can drink,” the Parks Department website states.
A trough constructed in Bedford-Stuyvesant disappeared long ago. Yet this 1894 beauty survives; it “consists of a large round horse trough, carved pedestal drinking fountain, and a central Ionic column topped by an ornamental globe-shaped lantern.”
At the back is a drinking fountain meant for humans (no spout; it might be the kind that had a communal metal cup attached to it that everyone had to share!)
Even better, on the bottom on both sides are dog fountains, a nice touch that could accommodate today’s canine-obsessed city.