Written by: Coral Gables

All the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men

Intricately decorated fountains with horse sculpture motifs were once quite popular when cities opened their water pipes to the working horses on the streets to insure the animals were well-hydrated to do their job. Cities provided the water, and horse lovers’ donations provided the fountains with elaborate carvings of equine sculptures. 

But when an epidemic hit some cities soon after the turn of the century, public health officials ordered the horse troughs to go dry. By 1914, pulling the plugs on horse fountains was a national movement. 

Plaque commemorating Union #7 for its participation in the fountain’s construction [Photo credit V.Cerda]

Still a few famous equine motif fountains continue to exist. Rome has its Trevi Fountain, Palm Beach has its Mizner Fountain, and Coral Gables has its own fountain erected in 1973 —  It is the city’s own “thing of beauty” on Ponce de Leon Boulevard. A decorative respite with a rich human history.

In 1970, rumors surfaced that a hand-carved fountain depicting a three-tiered stone equine sculpture was sitting in a warehouse in Italy with nowhere to go.  Enter the North Ponce Development Association and the rise to bring the structure to America. 

Fountain under construction circa 1973 [Photo credit Coral Gables Historic Resources Office]

Below is an excerpt from a 1973 Miami News article by Bill Waters that recounts the monumental efforts undertaken to bring the three-tiered decorative one-of-a-kind fountain to the City of Coral Gables.

“It all began three years ago when the North Ponce Development Association…led by attorney Michael Tobin…set out to raise $5,000 to purchase and ship the fountain [from Milan, Italy].

Chris Pavlo, owner of the Chateaubleu Hotel opposite the fountain, contributed $2,500…and other business interests kicked in the rest.  The City of Coral Gables had $13,000…earmarked for [the] installation of the fountain–but the garbage collectors needed a pay raise, so they got priority.

The fountain sponsors would not give up however, and they got a pledge from the Bricklayers, Masons and Plasterers Union No. 7 that members would donate their services. The Ironworkers Union came up with the reinforcing steel.

The Gables agreed to take care of the engineering, plumbing and lighting and Jack Epperson provided crane service. A site was selected on North Ponce Plaza, five blocks south of the Trail. Progress was painstakingly slow since the men worked only in their spare time. After three years, the community effort produced a thing of beauty and the Gables Garden Society [contributed] finishing touches to the landscaping with a border of hybrid roses.”

The fountain at 1200 Ponce de Leon Boulevard celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2023– marking a time when a community came together to build “a thing of beauty” made of stone yet soft to the heart.

Thank you to Dorothy Thomson, former Coral Gables Mayor, and Malcolm Lauredo, director of historic research at the Coral Gables Museum, for their contribution to this story.

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Tags: , Last modified: March 2, 2022