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Madison, Wisconsin

Annie Stewart Memorial Fountain

A largely forgotten and touching neoclassical marble fountain overlooking a bear mound effigy. 

At the end of Erin St. above the black bears in the Vilas Zoo stands a neglected neoclassical marble fountain that evokes the City Beautiful era of American architecture and planning.

The Annie Stewart Memorial Fountain was commissioned in 1905 by Mary Stewart who left $2,000 to the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association to fund a commemorative monument to her daughter Annie Stewart who suffered from depression and took her own life that year at age 38. Annie was among a group of women who served the poor of Madison by mending discarded clothing. The group became known as the “Attic Angels” and is still active in Madison today.

The memorial was designed by Frederick J. Clasgens of Cincinnati, and erected in 1925. It has a concrete bowl 21 feet in diameter, with a central sculpture of a mermaid and a young boy riding a brachycephalic fish. The design provided for a continuous flow of water from the mermaid’s conch shell that flowed into the lower basin as a source of drinking water. It was vandalized once in 1948, when a small Triton was destroyed by a group of young boys and again more recently when the facial features of the mermaid were compromised.

Just to to the south is an Eagle effigy Indian mound, one of the only remaining mound from a group of seven or eight built by Native American people on this small hilltop overlooking Lake Wingra. 

Know Before You Go

Go to the end of Erin Street, where it meets Wingra St. Walk up the hill to the small public park at the top. You'll actually be in Vilas Park, but this is a little known hilltop portion of the park which is better known for the Vilas Park Zoo, small swimming beach, and picnic areas.