Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Bonus Site; Lotta's Fountain, San Francisco

Lotta's Fountain is located on the corner of 3rd and Market in the Financial District of San Francisco.

I spent the day playing tour guide to a couple of friends that were visiting from out of state. Before I met them at their hotel I rode my bike around downtown San Francisco and explored as much as I could before the streets got too crazy with weekend traffic. There are so many great things to see downtown, but traffic is usually bad enough that riding a bike around, sight-seeing, and taking photos just isn't feasible. However, early morning on a Saturday turned out to be great; empty streets, no tourists, and the city all to myself. While I was riding around I found Lotta's Fountain on the corner of 3rd and Market and decided that this place is worth a bonus blog entry.

Lotta's Fountain is a sculpted cast iron pillar with a drinking fountain in the base, it was erected in 1875 on Market Street, at the intersection of Geary and Kearny Streets. The fountain was donated by the entertainer Lotta Crabtree, known as "Miss Lotta, San Francisco's Favorite", and "The nation's Darling". She was a dancer, singer, and banjo player who made a name for herself by touring the mining camps of the Sierras during the California Gold Rush. Lotta left California in 1863, but used her fortune to dedicate fountains and endow charities in a number of cities.

Lotta's Fountain survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and, in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, served as an informal meeting place for individuals and families who were looking for lost or missing persons. A commemoration of the earthquake, as well as a gathering of earthquake survivors, is a yearly event that takes place at the fountain at 5:12 AM on April 18th, the anniversary of the 1906 disaster.

This fountain was a totally unplanned find, and a great way to underscore what I love about the history of the Bay Area. While riding my bike through San Francisco I'm passing through more than a century of local history, of success, survival, and the busy day-to-day lives of generations of San Franciscans. I've learned a ton about the history of the Bay Area in the last year, but there are still times when I feel overwhelmed by the stories and the experiences that are accumulated in a city such as San Francisco. Part of what I love about this project of mine is that I don't think I'll ever get to the bottom of it, and the Bay Area will never stop dishing up history and stories that are worth studying.

Getting There By Bike...
Easy as pie. Take BART to Embarcadero and head straight up Market Street until you see the intersection for 3rd st. Lotta's Fountain is on a crosswalk island on the north side of the street. Be careful of high-volume traffic on Market Street if you go in the afternoon, or on the weekend.

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