Description of Historic Place
The Lewis Fountain was a gift to the Town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1895 from Nathan B. Lewis, a prominent businessman in the town’s shipping history. It is constructed of bronze and stands in a parking lot at the northwest corner of Main and Argyle Streets in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Municipal heritage designation applies to the structure and its footprint only.
The Lewis Fountain is valued for its association with Nathan B. Lewis and his importance in Yarmouth’s shipping history. It is also valued as a unique structure in the town of Yarmouth.
Nathan B. Lewis was a merchant and a leading businessman in Yarmouth, owning shares in more than ten local businesses. In 1874 he and his brother, Henry, founded the firm of H. and N. B. Lewis, which comprised much of the waterfront property in the southern end of the town. As well as owning a number of vessels, the business establishment owned wharves, warehouses, fish sheds, a ships’ chandlery and a general merchandise store and employed many local people. The company was initially concerned mainly with the management of vessels engaged in the world-wide freighting trade but over time it grew to include interests in the local fishing fleet, trade with the West Indies and the coal trade. The record of one of their vessels, aptly named 'N B Lewis' is recounted in a book, "Novascotiaman," compiled by Henry's granddaughter’s husband and published by the Nova Scotia Museum in 1979. The letters and other documents cited convey a clear sense of the personality of Nathan B. Lewis and the scrupulous manner in which both brothers conducted their shipping business.
It seems to have been a relatively common event in Yarmouth, during the latter part of the nineteenth century, for the town’s wealthiest families to make generous donations to the Town. Two years previous to the donation of this fountain, another fountain had been donated at the northern end of the town by a member of the Killam family, and a few weeks after the establishment of the Lewis Fountain a third one was donated in the centre area of town by a member of the Cann family. Other donations of note were a lot of land on which to build a library from one person and the library building itself from another. There are several other examples of this type of largesse within the town, but the intent seemed to be to make a lasting gift bearing the name of the donor family, as was the case with the Lewis Fountain.
An article which appeared in the local "Yarmouth Herald" newspaper at the time describes the structure: “The Drinking Fountain at Moody’s Corner was placed in position on the 6th May, 1895, when the names of the generous donors were for the first time made known. It presents an imposing and attractive appearance, is of bronze, is octagonal at the base, and is handsomely ornamented. It has two taps, two large bowls for horses and cattle and four smaller ones at the base for dogs and other small animals. A constant flow of water from the Lake George service keeps the receptacles full.” The fountain was fabricated by the J. L. Mott Iron Works, New York, well known for their architectural fabrications, including the dome of the White House in Washington, DC.
With the popularity of the “horseless carriage” came the inevitable collisions, many of them attributed to "those drivers under the influence of the demon rum," according to one editorial comment, and over time the fountain became seriously damaged. Sometime in the 1950s the remaining parts of it were removed from its prominent position in the centre of the street. It is believed that the late Mayor Willard Allen was responsible for having the fountain recast and the entire structure moved out of the street right-of-way into the corner of the parking lot where it still stands. The two taps, two large bowls for horses and cattle and the four small bowls at the base, presumably the most severely damaged parts, were not replicated in the recasting of the fountain, nor was the water reconnected to it. However, the principal parts of the structure and the plaque proclaiming it to be a gift of Nathan B. Lewis and wife still remain to commemorate their generosity.
Source: Registered Heritage Property files, Town of Yarmouth, NS.
The character-defining elements of the Lewis Fountain include:
- location at northwest corner of Main and Argyle Streets in the south end of Yarmouth, near the waterfront;
- octagonal shape base topped by a square tower;
- bronze casting;
- ornamentation of gargoyle heads, four bowls, decorative plaques and a large urn on top;
- commemorative plaque with name of donor;
- bronze plate on base with name of maker;
- prominent visibility in a mini-park setting at a four-way intersection.