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A Refreshing Drink in Victorian Central Park

Updated on June 14, 2011

A Fancy Water Fountain Indeed

Not just any old cold drink dispenser.
Not just any old cold drink dispenser. | Source

Same Fancy Fountain, With Customers

Gather 'round, everyone! Time for a slurp of water.
Gather 'round, everyone! Time for a slurp of water. | Source

A Lost Fountain

I'm sure you've seen (and used) drinking fountains in parks, in the summer. They're all pretty much the same: metal, with the little spout, like the ones in schools. Utilitarian, really. But in the 1870s in New York City, you could have yourself a very fancy drink of water indeed. Check out the open onion-dome style of this Central Park drinking extravaganza, which alas was also pretty unsanitary, since it looks  like there were little metal cups attached to it (by chains, I guess) and everyone used those. Never mind, I think I prefer the modern spout! But for looks, this can't be beat. I found an engraving of the fountain in the 1874 guidebook Treat's Illustrated New York  Brooklyn and Vicinity. The photograph, of the same Central Park fountain, is at the splendid New York Public Library Digital Gallery (via, in this case, Wikipedia).

There's also a bird cage in the Treat's engraving - I'd never heard of such a thing in a park, Victorian or otherwise. You'd really think a park was the last place birds would have to worry about cages.

A Mysterious Rustic Spring

"This water is more mysterious than that fountain stuff."
"This water is more mysterious than that fountain stuff." | Source

A Refreshing Spring

Still thirsty in Victorian Central Park, not just for water but also for a little mystery? Try hiking off to the Spring, where you could also drink water (bring your own tin cup from home, though). It is still there, of course, just north of what is now the Diana Ross Playground at West 881st and Central Park West. The highest spot in Central Park is there, called Summit Rock, and the spring is one of two (I don't know which one is pictured). I hope that this is the one known as Tanner's Spring. It's named for Dr. Henry Tanner, from Minnesota, who fasted for 40 days and nights in the summer of 1880 (from June 28 to August 6). It was a water fast, and he got the water from - well, you know where. The Spring is a great spot for bird-watching in the Park, so they must like the water, too.

And back in the early 19th century, the springs were the water source for a free black village (this was way before Central Park existed) called Seneca Village. Check out this archaeology project at Columbia University for more on Seneca Village.


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      Nna 3 years ago

      Hi Lindsay and Amy I really hope you reply even tughoh it has been 2 years since you've posted on here I'm so glad to have found this site. My name is Nichole and I am almost 23 years old, I have suffered with NDPH since I was 16. I was a Sophomore in high school, it was near the end of 2006 when I got sick with bronchitis and the flu and coughed and coughed and noticed I had a really terrible headache with it. Once the sickness went away I noticed that the migraine, that pain in my head that had been so foreign to me prior to this, had not gone away, and still has not to this day I had to be home schooled and quit all of my sports I was a part of My friends went on with their lives and forgot about me while I had a constant 24/7 pain that I could not get rid of no matter how hard I tried or how much it killed me, physically and mentally. We began with Chiropractors, decompression machines, adjustments, etc. I traveled hours to probably 20 different Chiropractors that all said that they knew what I had and exactly how to treat it. I've tried natural supplements, over the counter medications, 6 Occipital nerve blocks in the back of my head, massage, diets of no wheat, no gluten, no sugar, vegan only, all with no progress. My family understands the pain and how I can be ok one minute but then pick up something slightly too heavy, walk a little too fast, sit down a little too hard and I will have to be in my room with blankets over my windows and absolutely no sound because the pain is so unbearable. It is so frustrating because I too feel like a burden, like ok you have a headache so what? Why can't you stay out late or get up early or work long shifts or run around and be active? But it is so much more than a headache It's become a way of life and although I think I handle it well I know that deep down I am depressed and deeply saddened by it because anytime I stop to think about it or talk to anyone about it I cry instantly. Lindsay, I too have tried the things you have with no help and at Cleveland Clinic where they did my nerve blocks they told me about the program where you stay there for an amount of time. My option they told me about when staying there was a few weeks, they would put me on all these medications and steroid medications, have physical therapy and counseling as well. They also said the FDA would soon be approving the Botox injections, I'm sorry those did not help you either NDPH has altered my life drastically, I can't work as much, I can't run around and just be free, I can't take a full load of classes at a time Basically I just want to thank you for having this site Amy, it is really more helpful than you know, just knowing that I'm not the only one to suffer from this and that I'm not the only one that has this pain to think about every single second of every day Bless you and bless all your readers, may you all find relief from the pain -Nichole

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      Ellie 3 years ago

      Just cause it's simple doesn't mean it's not super hefulpl.