The Public Square Water Fountain, AKA “Cory’s Punch Bowl”
The Public Square water fountain in Downtown Watertown has seen a lot over the years. Cory’s Punch Bowl, as it was jokingly named, was the name given to the basin after the then village of Watertown’s president Benjamin Cory, later the Editor of the Watertown Register, insisted on its permanent placement onto Public Square.
According to the Watertown Daily Times, speaking of the fountain known as the “Lady of the Lake”:
This fountain had been procured by Benjamin Cory, and was evidence before the three parks (on public square) were laid out in 1855 by surveyor Charles Smith.
The original fountain had been replaced in 1869 by a larger and more ornate one to commemorate the incorporation of the city.
In 1901, one letter to the editor of the Watertown Daily Times from an old-timer who recollected how Watertown received its public water supply a half century earlier with the creation of a plant that would pump the water–
I recall the building of the plant in 1853, when the then village of Watertown bonded itself $25,000 to erect the works. Cast iron pipe at the price then ruling was out of the question for the resources in the village and sheet iron and cement-lined pipe was laid as a substitution. That proved an aggravation and not to be depended upon for any adequate fire pressure. When a member or the fire department and at the fires I have seen whole sections of sheet iron split and property burn from lack of water. The mains gradually rusted out and have been replaced by an entire cast-iron pope line of “standard weight.”
About all that remains of that original system is the basin of the fountain in Public Square, that was built for permanence. Benjamin Cory was then president of the village. The jokers named the fountain, “Cory’s Punch Bowl.”
J. L. Hotchkins
The reservoir, from which the water was pumped, was located “towards the rear of the present Thompson Park” per the Daily Times and was put in operation on November 23, 1853.
Municipal Fountain Wrecked
In 1959, the Watertown Daily Times would report, along with the photo below:
Municipal Fountain Wrecked — The municipal ornamental water fountain on Public Square was wrecked by Two fun-loving Long Island volunteer firemen at 2:05 this morning with only a four-foot section left standing. The upper portion of the municipal fountain was toppled by the reveling firemen and sent crashing into the shallow pool.
In a 2002, the Daily Times reported–
A community fund drive was started, but the New York Air Brake Co. came to the rescue by casting new parts for the fountain at its Starbuck Avenue foundry. The refurbished fountain was dedicated May 31, 1960.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last incident with the fountain, as the Daily Times in 2002 was merely updating the history of the fountain after it had, yet again, been destroyed by an intoxicated individual climb upon the fountain, sending it to a similar fate as in 1959.
While it was repaired the following year, the Public Square water fountain would remain in storage for several more years before being officially rededicated in 2009 following the Armed Forces Parade. The city would test the fountain and the lights, shown in the short video from the Watertown Daily Times below, prior to its rededication.
Today, the Public Square water fountain maintains its central presence as a landmark in downtown Watertown just as it did nearly 160 years ago.