Cogswell Fountain by Henry Cogswell


At 20 feet high, the Cogswell Fountain stands at the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue. As an advocate of abstinence from alcohol, Pawtucket philanthropist Henry Cogswell hoped to design and install 50 such temperance fountains throughout the United States—one for every 100 saloons. As such, the drinking fountains represented an alternative to beer and were inscribed with messages about hard work and the follies of listlessness. With 140 saloons at the time of Cogswell’s grand endeavor, Pawtucket was an obvious candidate for installation. Other locations to eventually receive statues included Boston, Washington, DC., San Francisco, and Rockville, Connecticut.

Unsurprisingly, the Cogswell Fountain was not well received by the Pawtucket community.  After running Cogswell out of town, his fountain was removed from its original location where it currently stands, and placed in Oak Grove Cemetery. In 1904, it to moved the Slater Park entrance on Newport Avenue where it stood for the majority of its existence, at one point restored with a new heron statue after a 1938 hurricane destroyed the original. Finally, in 1990, the statue found its way back to its initial location.

Born in Connecticut, Cogswell attended school in New York for a short period of time before his father died in 1828 at the age of 84. Himself only 18 years old, Cogswell returned to Connecticut for some time and then walked fifty miles to Pawtucket in 1835. There, he worked at a brick mill in Central Falls, earning one dollar a week and three cents an hour for overtime work. Eventually, he became a dentist and opened an office. In 1849, taken by “gold fever,” he left for the West Coast where he amassed a fortune through the California Gold Rush and founded a technical high school that later became Cogswell College. Returning, he began work as a philanthropist, designing and installing his infamous statues.

Todd Stong

Elizabeth Johnson Pawtucket History Research Center at the Deborah Cooke Sayles Pawtucket Public Library



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