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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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History mystery--photo detective

Spring Street, Main Street and Temple, Los Angeles, California

I was going through The Times' photos of Spring Street and became rather irked that someone labeled this image in grease pencil. This is the intersection of Main, Temple and Spring before Spring was realigned.   

A mysterious inscription
Then I noticed this inscription on the back. Most of it was illegible, but I could make out "demolished by runaway team." A mystery!

Mystery of old Los Angeles solved

Voila! The Newmark Fountain!
Los Angeles Times praises donor's generosity This dropcap is from Tarzan he Newmark Fountain was a minor landmark in downtown Los Angeles between  1882 and 1892. At left, The Times praised developer Harris Newmark &Co. for its generosity.

Driving cattle and sheep through the streets of Los Angeles may be banned

I love this 1882 story! The council tables a law to regulate driving cattle and sheep through the city.

Drinking fountain has naked woman

The fountain was 7 feet, 1 and 1/2 inches tall, topped by a "beautiful female figure."

Los Angeles firefighters pull prank on drinking fountain

Actually, it was a naked female figure, which prompted a prank by Los Angeles firefighters.
Drinking fountain destroyed in crash
In 1892, the fountain was destroyed in a spectacular accident in which a runaway team of four horses belonging to D.F. Donegan raced down Temple Street. One horse was killed instantly and another had to be shot, The Times said. D.F. Donegan was a major city contractor who owned a large stable that was often cited for poor conditions. The city tried to collect damages for the fountain and Donegan filed a counterclaim for the cost of the dead horses, saying that the fountain was an obstacle in the street.

In November 1893, Donegan finally agreed to replace the fountain. "It is a handsome piece of work and an ornament to the section of the city in which it is erected," The Times said.

Did the person who made the notation on the back of the photo actually witness the accident? We can only wonder.

Bonus fact: As far as I can determine, Sand Street vanished long ago, but intersected with Broadway north of Temple at the southern entrance of the Broadway tunnel, which has also disappeared.

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Comments (7)

its tram...not team.

Is the first line "Original Fountain Aug 4"?

The first two words look like " + original fountain". Notice the T is not crossed in "tram"

The fountain was likely destroyed - but possibly the statue still exists.

Harris Newmark (1834-1916) was a pioneer Los Angeles businessman who wrote an autobiography "Sixty years in Southern California, 1853-1913." It's available to read at the Library of Congress. Search for "newmark" at

Here is Newmark's story about the gift of the fountain, from pp 533-534 of "Sixty years in Southern California, 1853-1913."

In the spring of 1882, my attention had been called to the public need of proper facilities for obtaining a drink of good water; and no one else having moved in the matter, the following communication was sent, during the heated summer, to the City authorities:


August 25, 1882.

To the Honorable,

The Council of Los Angeles City:


The undersigned hereby tender to the city a drinking fountain, as per the accompanying cut, to be placed on that portion of Temple Block fronting the junction of Main and Spring streets, for the free use of the public, and subject to the approval of your honorable body.



About the same time Stephen H. Mott, Secretary of the Los Angeles City Water Company, promised enough drinking water, free of charge, to supply the fountain.

The unpretentious gift having been accepted, the fountain was installed. The design included an iron pedestal and column, surmounted by a female figure of attractive proportions; while below, the water issued from the mouth of a lion's head. Though but seven feet in height and not to be compared with more ambitious designs seen here later, the fountain may have given some incentive to city service and adornment.

Fascinating items!
I have a bit of experience reading handwriting from that era and, though scrawled, this seems to read, from front of photo:

"Main, Temple, Spring + original fountain ____ demolished by runaway team"

I'll venture a guess that the unknown word was meant to read "trough" though it seems impossible to tell for sure. I understand why others think the last word reads "tram," but I'd surmise they're not seeing the typical "reverse 3" cursive "e" of the period. This was written hastily, there are all sorts of inconsistencies in the handwriting.


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