A beloved Downtown monument gifted to the city by a vaudeville dancer nearly a century and a half ago has been vandalized.
Joseph Amster, a San Francisco resident and local history buff, was giving a walking tour when he noticed a piece missing on the cast iron fountain at the intersection of Market and Kearny streets about a week ago and notified the San Francisco Arts Commission. The approximately 4-inch stolen piece was shaped like a small flower, or florette.
Longtime press agent and San Francisco booster Lee Houskeeper called the defacement a “dastardly, criminal act” that is “against San Franciscans and all we hold dear.”
Lotta Crabtree, a dancer who entertained miners in camps during the Gold Rush era, gave San Francisco the fountain in 1875. It was one of the few functional water sources after the 1906 earthquake, and it served as a meeting point where people would post messages searching for loved ones. People have adored it ever since. Now the city’s oldest monument, it was named the city’s favorite in a survey done by the San Francisco Arts Commission earlier this year. Every April, people gather there before dawn to commemorate the terrible disaster that destroyed much of the city.
Former mayor Willie Brown played an instrumental role in its 1998 restoration, in which the fountain’s approximately 200 pieces were taken apart, restored and reassembled. He lamented the recent vandalism of the iconic monument.
“It’s a shame people are doing this to the city,” said Brown. “They have zero pride.”
In the meantime, Houskeeper said he was pushing for the San Francisco Police Department to put detectives on the case.
It’s not the first time the fountain has been vandalized, according to Amster. About seven years ago, a piece was removed from one of the cast iron lion’s mouths. Two years passed before the arts commission was able to replace the missing piece.
Houskeeper hopes for a speedier resolution this time around—or that the person who committed the act will come to their senses and return it. If not, he is holding out hope that authorities will track down the vandal.
“The wrath of San Franciscans is to be feared when messing around with Lotta’s fountain,” he said.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org