Huntington Park has a rich history steeped in the building of the Trans-continental railroad. The railroad men of California constituted some of the richest men in San Francisco. They were known as the Big four and their names were, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, and Mark Hopkins. Their names will sound familiar even if all you know is the names of the hotels atop Nob Hill.
This fountain is a copy of Rome’s Fontana della Tartarughe (fountain of the turtles) designed by Giacomo Della Porta and Taddeo Landini in 1583. The wife of William H. Crocker (Charles Crockers’ son and founder of the Crocker Bank) discovered this copy of the fountain in a villa outside of Rome and purchased it for her home in Hillsborough, California. When the estate was sold, the sculpture was given to the city of San Francisco by the Crocker heirs. The sculpture was accepted by the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 4, 1954. It was installed in Huntington Park in 1955. The fountain was restored in 1984. Restoration work included the recasting of the four turtles which had been stolen by vandals. The castings were taken from a similar fountain at the Ringling Brother and Barnum and Bailey Circus Headquarters in Sarasota, Florida.
The Crocker estate in San Francisco was destroyed during the fire of 1906 and the land was given to Grace Cathedral. The front doors of the cathedral face Huntington Park.
The sculptor of this copy is not known. If you are interested in reading all about the original Fontana della Tartarughe, you can do so here.
The piece is owned by the City of San Francisco Art Commission.