Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Bagley Memorial Fountain

The Bagley Memorial Fountain is named in honor of John J. Bagley, Detroit’s police commissioner from 1865 to 1872 and the 16th governor of Michigan. When Bagley died in 1881, he left $5,000 for the construction of a fountain in Detroit. In 1885, the Bagley family chose Henry Hobson Richardson as its designer. The fountain is Romanesque in style and modeled after a ciborium (a freestanding canopy supported by columns that covers an altar) in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy.

Constructed from pink Bragville granite, the fountain is 21 feet tall and seven feet across. There are four lion heads at the center of the fountain, two of which originally produced cold water, chilled by ice packs positioned around the pipes. The fountain, which was built as Detroit’s first public drinking fountain according to a stipulation in Bagley’s will, was dedicated in 1887 at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Fort Street. In 1926 an increase of automobile traffic resulted in the fountain’s move to nearby Campus Martius Park. In 2000 the fountain was disassembled and put into storage until 2007, when it was moved to its current location in the redesigned Cadillac Square Park. During reassembly it was discovered that one of the lion heads had been stolen so it was replaced with a reproduction. The fountain is the only remaining work in the Detroit area by Richardson, the nation’s leading architect in the late 19th century.

The fountain was added to the State Register of Historic Places on March 3, 1971, and to the National Register of Historic Places on November 5, 1971.



Bagley Memorial Fountain, 1908

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