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Roving Rube

August 31, 2003

Neptune Fountain, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island

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A lively composition executed in zinc, the center fountain group shows Neptune perched atop a large shell borne by a pair of scaled sea monsters. With raised trident seized energetically in both hands, he seems to urge his mounts forward. A sculpted pile of rocks forms the base for the group and a submerged pile of rocks supports the sculpture. (Percent for Art website)

The fountain was recently renovated and the original zinc sculpture (on view in Visitor Center) has been replaced by this bronze recasting.

Neptune is surrounded by bronze lilies which shoot jets high into the air.

The foutain is surrounded by white urns, and sits off by itself in a quiet corner.

Zinc statuary, fountains, plaques and decorative objects, were made by a number of companies from the latter part of the 19th Century into the early 20th Century. They were less expensive than cast bronze or carved stone, and could be made in virtually any form and size, not unlike cast-iron. However, the material was brittle and susceptible to thedynamics of freeze and thaw, climbing kids and vandalism. ... The last zinc sculpture on public display in New York Citys parks was the Neptune... Other park fountains and pieces of this type vanished long ago. (



By Joan Hackett

It was a "New York Day": cool, clear and exhilarating. I took the ferry from lower Manhattan to Staten Island -- a glorious ride with striking views of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. By bus to Snug Harbor, once a retirement village for "ancient mariners", a perfect spot to explore on a perfect day. In one of its secluded squares Neptune's Fountain spouted streams of water high into the air. Seated nearby, an ordinary looking man writing assiduously on a single sheet of green paper suddenly stopped, looked up and snapped, "What time is it?"

"4.15". He jumped up, circled toward the opposite side of the fountain, waggled the green paper above his head. "I'm a writer and translator. French and German. Know any French playwrights?", he challenged.


"Racine!", he flung over his shoulder.

"Giraudoux!", I shouted at his retreating back.

"Schiller!". He'd switched to the Germans.

"Brecht!". This seemed to stump him. I persisted, "You're a learned man".

"No I'm not. I'm a poet!"

"Walt Whitman!", I bellowed across the noisy fountain, but the game was over. My ordinary man had evaporated into thin air.

At sunset, going back on the ferry, Manhattan was a golden glow on the horizon and I swear Miss Liberty's torch had burst into flame.


(Posted on The Retirees' Newsletter, The Faculty and Librarian Retirees' Association, University of Windsor, Windsor, Canada, Issue #19 -- October, 1996)



































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