Art in Plain Sight: Main Street Fountains Print
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Friday, 29 June 2012 06:00

Dillon Memorial. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Davenport’s Main Street begins at a fountain in LeClaire Park and leads directly to another in Vander Veer Botanical Park to the north. Both are significant city landmarks, yet each has a distinct history and appearance.

The Dillon Memorial, standing about 30 feet in height, is located just south of the intersection of River Drive and Main Street in downtown Davenport. The memorial’s slender, fluted column is capped by a patina-colored lantern that is lit at night. The concrete column’s base is centered in two concentric pools filled from four water spouts in the shape of lions’ heads –forms drawn from ancient Roman architecture. It was designed by New York architects Franklin and Arthur Ware in association with Paul Schultz.

Dillon Memorial. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The fountain memorializes John Forrest Dillon (1831-1914), a Davenport attorney and prosecutor who served as chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court and was appointed a federal circuit judge. Dillon also taught at Columbia and Yale law schools and served as president of the American Bar Association. A likeness of Dillon, carved by Harry Liva, is on the column.

When the memorial was erected in 1918, it was the only structure south of River Drive. Before a spacious plaza and garden area were built around the memorial in 1997, it stood in the center of Main Street.

Vander Veer Botanical Park fountain. Photo by Bruce Walters.A mile and a half to the north on Main Street is the stone fountain at the Vander Veer Botanical Park. Completed as a Federal Emergency Relief Administration project in 1935, it replaced an iron Victorian fountain that had been donated to the park in 1906.

The stone fountain is constructed of irregular blocks of limestone. The materials and construction are reminiscent of the Black Hawk State Historic Site structures in Rock Island, also built by a New Deal relief program during the Great Depression.

The Vander Veer fountain and jet spray of water reach a peak height of nearly 30 feet – virtually the same height as the downtown memorial. Two rings of spray surround the stone fountain’s central tower of water. At night, the fountain is bathed beautifully in changing colored lights – creating a spectacular display that contrasts with the formal and restrained classicism of the memorial to Judge Dillon.

Both fountains fell into disrepair before they were extensively renovated within the past decade. More than beautiful centerpieces within surrounding gardens, they create a sense of place and represent the community’s revitalization and growth.

Bruce Walters is a professor of art at Western Illinois University.

This is part of an occasional series on the history of public art in the Quad Cities. If there’s a piece of public art that you’d like to learn more about, e-mail the location and a brief description to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .