Despite the grand plaque, it seems this specific site never became a pilgrimage point for visitors, who instead opt to visit the zoo’s lions, tigers, and bears.
Of the more than two million visitors who visit the Bronx Zoo each year, few pass through the gorgeous Art Deco Rainey Memorial Gates. Fewer still notice the plaque marking a “Fountain of Youth” located just down the path inside the gates, promising “good health and good fortune to all who drink there from,” attributed to an Italian legend.
Is this a true holy grail, hidden in plain sight? Or is there more to the story? A 1952 newspaper had the scoop.
It seems an enterprising Bronx resident, Hyman Gould, returned home from a trip with a special souvenir—a 12-inch piece of lead pipe—which he was told came from an ancient fountain that granted all its drinkers with good health, good looks, and good fortune.
Working with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and the Bronx Borough president, they concocted a tourist trap in the form of a drinking fountain to come and sip the rejuvenating waters springing from the Pompeii pipe. They envisioned this would attract visitors from around the world, requiring other tourist ventures, including gift shops and hot dog stands, to cater to all the visitors. And, last but certainly not least, this famed fountain would make them all rich.
It seemed, in the end, that this tall tale never took off in the way Gould had hoped, and only the plaque remains to tell the story. However, the Bronx still attracts its fair share of concession consuming visitors thanks to the beloved Bronx Zoo.