Elegant fountain recalls waning days of horse and buggy

Humane Society Alliance Fountain

Sprinkled throughout the United States are five-ton granite fountains, remnants of a simpler time.

Between 1906 and 1912, the National Humane Alliance presented approximately 125 horse watering troughs to cities and towns across the country. The idea was to instill “ideas of humanity both to the lower animals and to each other,” according to Alliance founder Hermon Lee Ensign.

One such fountain still sits where it was originally placed in Abbeville, SC. Installed in 1912 in the town square, it was designed so that water flowed from regal lions’ mouths into a basin of polished Maine granite trimmed with bronze.

It was designed with an upper bowl, or trough, for horses to drink from and small cups at the bottom for cats and dogs. Birds could also use it, as could humans, who could drink the clean water as it came from the founts.

At least one community in each state in the Union, then composed of 48 states, was presented with a fountain, and at least two were placed in Mexico, as well. Fountains were presented to several cities in South Carolina, including two in Columbia and single fountains in Abbeville, Camden, Georgetown and Laurens.

The National Humane Alliance was established in 1897. Ensign, its founder, compiled a moderate fortune from advertising and several inventions in the newspaper business.

An individual with a lifelong affection for animals, Ensign had a deep appreciation for their welfare. The National Humane Alliance emphasized the education of people to be kind to one another and considerate of animals.

Detail from National Human Alliance fountain in Abbeville, SC.

Detail from National Human Alliance fountain in Abbeville, SC.

Ensign, who died in 1899, dedicated his fortune to the Alliance, which used the money to fund the granite fountain program.

While the fountains aren’t identical, there are many similarities.

The granite used in their construction was quarried in Maine and manufactured in the coastal Maine communities of Rockland and Vinalhavan. The large bowls are around six feet across. Most are about six feet tall.

They can be found across the country, from San Diego, Calif., to Houlton, Maine, and from Spokane, Wash., to Jacksonville, Fla.

At least 70 fountains still survive, with others likely forgotten in municipality storage.

Most have been moved from their original locations, which was often near city or town centers.

The irony in the National Humane Alliance’s well-intentioned investment was that as it was donating these beautiful fountains to towns and cities across the country, the need for them was drawing to a close.

The United States was rapidly becoming a nation of car enthusiasts, and it wouldn’t be too many years before individuals traveling to town by horse were an anomaly.

(Top: National Humane Alliance fountain, Abbeville, SC.)

An unintended foray into falconry proves fulfilling

hawk paint

One of my many blessings is that my children love the outdoors and wildlife as much as I do. They’re always up for wading in a creek, tramping through the woods or driving to some distant unpopulated region for a gander at local fauna. Yesterday, I was rewarded once again for their willingness to abide by their dad’s need to get outside.

While trying to make the best of a wet afternoon we took a drive through rural farmland 15 miles north of home. Along one stretch of rural countryside we saw a red-tailed hawk go hopping across the road. A vehicle came slowly in the other direction and the bird of prey, rather than flying away, bounded off the road and into a ditch.

As the other vehicle passed, I pulled my car over and told my girls to take pictures of the hawk, which was about 15 feet away. I then got out of the car and slowly moved toward it. I could tell something wasn’t right, but I expected it to burrow into the nearby hedgerow and thereby elude me.

Instead, it stayed where it was, eyeing me warily. I got within about three feet and had one of my daughters bring me a sweatshirt. Given the size of the raptor’s beak and talons, I very carefully tried to wrap the sweatshirt around it. The hawk fell back at first, but didn’t put up too much of a fight.

I was able to carefully pick it up and show it to my girls, who, being 15, 14 and 12, were all “oohs” and “ahs.”

Me with somewhat confused red-tailed hawk. No hawks or humans were harmed in the making of this image.

Me with somewhat confused red-tailed hawk. No hawks or humans were harmed in the making of this image.

The hawk was wet and cold. We decided that given the weather – cold and rainy with more of the same expected for the foreseeable future – we would take it to a wildlife rescue shelter about 20 miles away.

One of my girls brought me another sweatshirt, this one pink, so we could make sure his talons were wrapped up and dad didn’t end up with deep lacerations about his body, and I slowly lowered myself into the car holding the hawk. Gently clutching our new companion with my left hand, I started the car and pulled forward, steering with my right hand.

My daughters were transfixed by the bird. Although most of the cinnamon-colored hawk was wrapped up, they could easily see its sharp beak and proud eyes, which gave it a fierce visage.

It was, like most birds, incredibly light for its size, weighing no more than 3 or 4 pounds. But it was two feet tall from head to talons, and its wingspan would likely have been at least four feet, had it had an opportunity to show off its plumage.

Not surprising given the car’s occupants, it was quickly given a series of names: Cooper (we initially thought it was a Cooper’s Hawk); Cosmo and Xenon (being a noble-looking bird, Daughter No. 4 thought it should be named for one of the noble gases and helium, neon, krypton and radon weren’t cutting it.) Ultimately, it ended up with three different names – one from each daughter – none of which, of course, the bird showed any interest in responding to.

A good portion of the trip was on an Interstate, and while I was busy keeping my eyes either on the road or the bird, hoping it wouldn’t decide to crane its neck around and take a nip at my neck or face, I can only image what fellow drivers thought as they passed our car and caught a glimpse of a middle-aged man driving down the road with a fierce-looking raptor sitting on his lap.

We eventually made our way to the Carolina Wildlife Center with neither man nor hawk suffering injury or embarrassment.

As I carried the bird of prey into the center I noticed the other rescued animals on hand, including a baby possum, a squirrel and a blue jay. I somehow resisted the urge to thump my chest, swagger around and crow about how my beast could not only best all the others, but eat each one, as well.

Instead, we filled out an information card, thanked them for taking our hawk and went on our way.

St. Andrew’s Society: Bettering Upstate NY for 200+ years

Vermont Albany 9 9 2015 104 a

Were it not for the striking metalwork atop the door on a four-story brownstone, the structure at 150 Washington Ave. in Albany, NY, would have gone unnoticed in a city full of beautiful old edifices.

In the grillwork is a bronze cast of St. Andrew, one of the Twelve Apostles, carrying a cross amid leaves and branches, on a block. The image stands in front of a banner which bears the words “St. Andrew’s Society”.

For more than 200 years, the St. Andrew’s Society of the City of Albany (NY) has aided people near and far, from denizens of the New York capital to inhabitants of the distant Scottish Highlands.

The society was begun in November 1803 when 41 “Scotchmen,” as they called themselves then, met at the corner of State and North Pearl streets in Albany to found the city’s St. Andrew’s Society, named for the patron saint of Scotland.

At the time Albany was a frontier settlement, with just 5,500 residents.

The founders were merchants, physicians, clergymen and politicians, men who sought to begin an organization for “social and benevolent purposes.”

“They enjoyed life, but they could not stand still when fellow Scots were in need,” according to information found on the society’s website.

The society’s motto is “Relieve the Distressed.” In its first 100 years, it concentrated on immigrant Scots who needed help to find shelter, money and assistance in finding work.

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Old Round Church: A curiosity in heart of the Green Mountains

Richmond, Vermont 9 4 2015 043

The Old Round Church of Richmond, Vt., is unusual for a number of reasons:

  • It is the believed to be lone surviving 16-sided wooden meetinghouse in the United States;
  • When it was originally constructed more than two centuries ago it was home to five different Protestant denominations, all of which would meet every Sunday, each sharing the two-story wood frame structure;
  • It was built at a cost of $3,000; when renovations to the structure were complete in 1981 the price tag was $180,000; and
  • The church was rumored to be built in a circle so that the devil wouldn’t have a place to hide.

The Old Round Church was constructed in 1812-13 by William Rhodes. Rhodes was a native of Claremont, NH, which was home to a 16-sided brick church, similar to what would be erected in Richmond, located in the western foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountains on the banks of the Winooski River.

Rhodes was no novice craftsman: He built several covered bridges in New England, a number of houses, and was also a blacksmith.

Construction was funded by sale of pews, most of which were purchased by Congregationalists. The other denominations which used the church in its early decades were Baptists, Methodist, Universalists and a group described as “Christians.”

The structure was built in the Federal style. Rhodes was able to give the structure an appearance of light, delicate walls by hiding the 16 large corner posts behind 32 interior sides, making the inside seem much more round than the outside.

The building is topped by a sixteen-sided roof with a two-stage octagonal bell tower.

Because of the unusual design, much of the flooring, which was fitted around pew boxes, is hand cut, with some of the planks up to 24 inches wide and many cut at 45 or 60 degree angles, to enable them to fit with adjacent planks.

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Sword of first Citadel graduate coming home after 153 years

Charles Tew sword

A Civil War sword that belonged to the first graduate of The Citadel, a Confederate officer killed at the Battle of Antietam in 1862, will be returned to the Charleston, SC, school by a Canadian group.

The sword, which belonged to Col. Charles C. Tew of the 2nd North Carolina State Troops, has been missing for 153 years, since Tew was killed Sept. 17, 1862, during the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.

It is being returned by the 33 Signal Regiment Foundation of Ottawa, the charitable arm of the 33 Signal Regiment of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, Canadian Army.

The sword was placed in the care of the 33 Signal Regiment in 1963 but was positively identified only recently as belonging to Tew. Members of the regiment worked very hard to unravel the mystery of the sword after it was “rediscovered,” according to the 33 Signal Regiment Foundation.

“We’re delighted to return this most important artifact,” said Michael Martin, chairman of the 33 Signals Regiment Foundation. “As this is the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, we believe it is only fitting to see that the sword is returned to the hands from whence it came.”

Tew was not only the first individual to receive a diploma from The Citadel, which was established in 1842, but he was the first honor graduate and the first president of The Citadel Alumni Association, according to Lieutenant Col. David Goble of The Citadel.

Tew, a native of Charleston, was one of the first 20 cadets initially admitted to the new South Carolina Military Academy, now known as The Citadel.

He graduated first in his class in 1846, becoming both the first graduate of the school and the first honor graduate.

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Researchers close in on solving American chestnut blight


The American chestnut once dominated Eastern North America, with the total number of trees estimated at 4 billion a little more than a century ago.

They were the prevailing species in many areas, particularly in the Appalachia region, where 25 percent of trees were chestnuts.

“Entire communities in Appalachia depended on the chestnut for everything,” said Marshal Case, former president of the Asheville, NC-based American Chestnut Foundation. The nonprofit has been leading the effort to re-establish the trees.

Chestnut trees were integral to everyday life in Appalachia and were known as “cradle to grave trees,” Case told National Geographic.

“Craftsmen made baby cradles and coffins from the rot-resistant hardwood. The trees were also used to build houses, telephone poles, and railroad ties,” he said. “Wildlife thrived on the trees, which each year produced bumper crops of nuts.”

The American chestnut was dealt a near-death blow with the introduction of Chinese chestnuts into the New York Botanical Gardens, now known as the Bronx Zoo. The Chinese chestnut brought with it a blight that, while it didn’t affect its carrier, was devastating to the American chestnut.

First identified in 1904, the blight, a fungus, infected and killed about 99.9 percent of the American chestnuts from Georgia to Maine and west to the Ohio Valley within 50 years.

New shoots often sprout from the roots when the main stem dies, so the species has not yet become extinct. However, the stump sprouts rarely reach more than 20 feet in height before blight returns.

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Museum under scrutiny regarding noted work


Delaware museum officials desperate for cash have removed one of their prized paintings from their walls but remain tight-lipped about the work’s future.

Winslow Homer’s “Milking Time,” among the Delaware Art Museum’s most treasured works, disappeared from its wall and collections database earlier this month, shortly after the museum announced that it would sell as many as four artworks to repay its construction debt and replenish its endowment.

Museum officials have declined to confirm whether the 1875 oil painting of rural Americana is among works to be sold over the next few months, according to the News-Journal of Wilmington, Del.

However, museum and art experts say the change is suspicious and likely indicates the painting will be sold, the publication added.

“Milking Time” is considered a landmark painting by Homer, regarded as one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century.

Homer, the renown landscape painter, created “Milking Time” in 1875 while living on a farm in upstate New York.

“Milking Time” is a “landmark painting for him,” according to Kathleen Foster, who curated an exhibition of Homer’s seascapes for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in late 2012. The Philadelphia museum owns four Homer works, including one of his most famous, “The Life Line.”

“Milking Time” was painted during a formative time in Homer’s career, a period in which he was searching for an identity as an artist, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

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