At the base of Capitol Hill at a site that few visitors come: the Fountain of Light and Water. Locals call it the Bartholdi Fountain, named after its creator Frederrik August Bartholdi. You may know Bart-hole-dee from one of his other work, the Statue of Liberty.
The fountain was cast in Paris then shipped to Philadelphia and displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. its combination of iron, gas light, and water was a symbol of the modern world the exposition was celebrating.
Bartholdi also had another work he was showing there, the torch of the Statue of Liberty. It was part of a fundraising drive for the statue’s pedestal and base. America became sort of a line of business for Bartholdi. He made a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette in New York and one Lafayette and George Washington in Paris.
Bartholdi was hoping to find a buyer for the fountain at the exposition, but the only offer came from Congress. So, he sold it to them for 6,000 dollars and it was shipped to Washington and installed in 1878 on the Mall in front to the Capitol. It was moved to this location 1932.
When the gas lamps were converted to electric, the fountain was a major attraction because it was one of the first public displays of electric lights. At night, people swarmed to see this display of light and water.
Not too many visitors come here, but if you’re visiting the Capitol, walk the extra block to 1st Street and Independence Ave SW. It’s part of a wonderful garden, maintained by the folks at the US Botanic Garden. Day or night, it’s a wonderful sight.