In 1875, the city of San Francisco earned a new landmark in the entity of a drinking fountain. This gift was given to the city by Lotta Crabtree, thus the name Lotta Crabtree Fountain. The fountain, which is simply referred to as Lotta’s fountain for an easier recall, stands in the heart of downtown San Francisco at the intersection of Market, Geary and Kearny Streets.
Lotta Crabtree was one of San Francisco’s most popular entertainers. She was a child from Grass Valley and was trained into becoming an entertainer by Lola Montez. With the training and encouragement from Montez, Lotta as young as eight years old, became a favorite in the mining camps of California. She amused the miners through singing, dancing and reciting. Soon after her debut in the mining camps, she began performing in gambling halls, saloons, and dives all through the Mother Lode. Having performed in various places, the name Lotta Crabtree became widely known all over California. Not long after, she also became quite popular in Philadelphia, Boston, New York and London. Her role in the dramatization of Dicken’s work Old Curiosity Shop marked her success in New York. Since then, she starred in burlesque and comic pieces for large audiences. But of course, even though her stage has expanded, nothing beats the place where she started to showcase her talent. She loved and adored San Francisco. Likewise, San Francisco loved and adored her. For that, Lotta Crabtree donated the large drinking fountain to the city.
The drinking fountain was officially inaugurated on September 9, 1875. The intersection of the streets Market, Kearny, Geary and 3rd was filled with a lot of people as the unveiling of Lotta’s Fountain took place in the presence of politicians and respectable citizens. Weeks before the fountain’s opening ceremony, people were mourning the death of William Ralston. He was the developer of the Palace Hotel which used to be the town’s pride and joy. Because of that, local residents were looking forward for something to boost their spirit. The launch of a new public drinking fountain gave them that.
More than an artistic landmark at San Francisco’s financial district, Lotta Crabtree Fountain served as a historic marker. On April 18, 1906, the place was struck by an earthquake. The fountain acted as an information center for the residents who were filled with worry about their loved ones. Lists of missing personas, dead bodies, names of newly found individuals and those who have been relocated to camps in Golden Gate Park and Palo Alto were posted on the bronzed Beaux Arts Column. Survivors from the natural disaster went there regularly for information and updates. Every year since then, Lotta Crabtree Fountain acts as the meeting point for survivors in remembrance of the said earthquake.
The fountain is the oldest existing monument in San Francisco’s collection and it had suffered neglect in the past decades. Good thing is Lotta Crabtree Fountain was completely refurbished into its original appearance in July 1999. A rededication of the piece was held on the 9th of September, 1999.