Day 335

Lorelei Fountain

November 29th, 2012

Depicting Lorelei, enchantress of the Rhine, and her riverine companions, this fountain honors the German writer Heinrich Heine and his poem "Die Lorelei". Located just across the street from the Bronx County Courthouse, it stands at the southern end of Joyce Kilmer Park, itself named for a poet — the guy who wrote that silly paean to trees.

The years have been rough on this fountain, but it has proven itself a true survivor. Commissioned in 1888, it began its life unloved and unwanted, rejected by Heine's hometown of Düsseldorf, for whom it was originally intended; the idea of memorializing Heine was politically unpopular at the time because of his criticism of German nationalism and his Jewish origins. A committee of German-Americans eventually acquired the fountain and, after a failed attempt to have it installed in Central Park, finally found a home for it here in the Bronx in 1899. It's suffered severe vandalism in the intervening decades — coats of spray paint, decapitations and dismemberments — but it has emerged in good health and good spirits. After a thorough restoration in 1999, it was feted with a centennial rededication ceremony at which the keynote address was delivered by, of all people, a deputy mayor of Düsseldorf.

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