March 8, 2012

Utility and Beauty

In the early years of Des Moines Water Works, an ornamental pool was a very popular public attraction. Located inside the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant – just south of the pumping station, Water Works Park visitors were welcome to visit the pool and stroll around the grounds.

The pool was built in the early 1920s, when the pumping station was being constructed.  The dirt from the excavation of the pool was used to raise the elevation of the pumping station.

Each corner of the pool was adorned with a large brass frog with water spouting from its mouth.   The decorative frogs were designed by sculptor Florence Sprague, an instructor in Drake University’s Art Department.

Shortly after completion of the pumping station, The Des Moines Tribune published pictures of the interior and exterior of the new facility in June 1923.  A photograph of the pool was included with this caption: “Utility and Beauty – this beautiful bit of artistry does not adorn the gardens of some multimillionaire’s estate – it is to be found on the grounds of the Des Moines Municipal Water Plant.”

The pool became affectionately known as the goldfish pond after a retiring business owner donated some goldfish.  When donated, the goldfish were small but grew to be six inches and weighed one pound each.

In the 1970s the pool was filled in because it was structurally unsafe.  And since then, access to the treatment plant has been restricted to the general public for security reasons.  To this day, nothing has been built on top of the old goldfish pond.  It remains a “green space” in the treatment plant.

Two of the four brass frogs from the pond are now on display at Des Moines Water Works’ museum inside the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant.  Who has the other two brass frogs remains a mystery …

Posted by: Pat Ripley No Comments
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