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The fountain in Fountain Square is 150 years old today

The fountain was commissioned by the owners of a hardware store
The Tyler Davidson Fountain at Fountain Square
Posted at 5:00 PM, Oct 06, 2021

CINCINNATI — Fountain Square is where we gather as a city, and the fountain has been at the center of that for 150 years.

The Tyler Davidson fountain at Fountain Square is celebrating 150 years of being that focal point of the city, dedicated on Oct. 6, 1871.

Rick Pender, author of "Oldest Cincinnati," recounts the story of the fountain: On this day 150 years ago, around 10,000 people showed up for the ceremony. Before the fountain was installed, the square was known as the Fifth Street Market, according to Sam Ujvary of 3CDC.

The Tyler Davidson Fountain at Fountain Square
The Tyler Davidson Fountain a Fountain Square is 150 years old. Here's a look at it through the years.

Pender says the fountain was commissioned by the owners of a hardware store in Cincinnati in the mid-1800s. Henry Probasco was a co-owner of the business, which was successful with so many people moving downstream to Cincinnati during that time.

Probasco and his partner, Tyler Davidson, wanted to do something to say thank you to the city, and cited the market that was there as an "eyesore," according to Ujvary. The initial plans for the fountain were stalled by the Civil War, Pender said.

After the war was over, Davidson passed away unexpectedly, and Probasco went to Europe to hunt down some designs.

Pender says he met a sculptor in Munich, Germany, who had a model of what the fountain is today: A figure with outstretched arms and water flowing down.

The Tyler Davidson Fountain at Fountain Square
The Tyler Davidson Fountain a Fountain Square is 150 years old. Here's a look at it through the years.

"The Genius of Water gives us a sense of the role of the river in creating and sustaining the city of Cincinnati," said David Stradling, a history professor at the University of Cincinnati.

"She's raining water down on several figures: One is a sailor, one is a farmer who needs water for his crops, another is a mother who's washing her child," said Pender.

There is a plaque that reads "TO THE PEOPLE OF CINCINNATI" on the fountain.

"So, it's called the Tyler Davidson fountain and it was in his memory, but they really wanted to dedicate it to the city that had done so much for them. And so I think it's highly appropriate that it's still, 150 years later, really sort of the centerpiece of our city," Pender said.

"The fountain is really the symbol of that gathering space," said Joe Rudemiller, VP of Marketing/Communications for 3CDC. "It's iconic, it's something that everyone sees and recognizes and automatically associates with Cincinnati."

A celebration was planned on Fountain Square to last through 8 p.m.

The Tyler Davidson Fountain at Fountain Square
The Tyler Davidson Fountain a Fountain Square is 150 years old. Here's a look at it through the years.