Burrillville, Then & Now: Fountain Square

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Welcome to a new feature on NRI NOW: Burrillville Then & Now

With photos provided by the Burrillville Historic & Preservation Society, we’ll take a glance back at how the town used to look, then show how the same space looks today. Betty Mencucci, president of BH & PS will provide a bit of historical information on the site.

Today, we look at Fountain Square, looking up High Street in Pascoag.

The building was the Industrial Trust Co., the present day site of Dunkin’ Donuts. Behind the bank was the massive Granite Mill complex, which stretched from South Main Street up High Street to where CVS is now. Notice the trolley tracks going up High Street.

Back in the days of the horse and buggy, it was a great convenience to have a fountain in the town, which would serve as a place to water your horse while traveling. During the summer of 1891 the town decided to purchase a fountain, and place it in Pascoag Square.

In August of that year, an iron fountain was purchased for $135 from Henry F. Jenks of Pawtucket. The water supply came from the flume at Union Mill, also known as Granite Mill, by a one inch lead pipe with permission from Albert L. Sayles, mill owner.

But when the workers started to dig a trench to the water supply, they struck solid ledge. It was the same ledge that extended under the bank, the wing of the mill, as well as buildings along South Main Street.

That ledge can still be seen today at Dunkin’ Donuts.

The trench was ultimately filled in, and another one was started on the other side of the street. Although no ledge was encountered, they did find boulders and had to deviate the course of the trench somewhat. They also built an underground drain along Sayles Avenue to the river. The fountain sat on a stone foundation with a space big enough for a man to crawl underneath to repair water pipes.

The fountain proved to be quite an attraction, with fresh clear water bubbling up out of the mouths of four mythical aquatic figures. There were so many horses drinking out of it during the day that the basin never filled up. At night it would fill, but the next morning the level would go down again as four horses at a time would be drinking while others waited their turn.

The intersection had been called Pascoag Square, Post Office Square or Bank Square. From this point on, it would be known as Fountain Square.

After seeing the success and popularity of the Pascoag fountain, the people of Harrisville wanted one as well. In November 1891, Ernest W. Tinkham was put in charge of purchasing a fountain and having it installed in Harrisville. But before this could happen, something new and exciting was taking place in Pascoag. They were putting in an electric light plant and would be lighting the streets with electricity!

Pascoag officials decided that they would rather have a different fountain; one that had a tall iron post extending above the basin that they could place an electric lamp on. They decided to move the fountain that they had just installed to Harrisville, and Pascoag purchased a new on in December of that year from Henry F. Jenks for $200.

Jenks had been manufacturing fountains for about 20 years and it was said that he produced a superior, long-lasting product. Every fountain was put together and tested before shipping and was constructed so that no mechanical skill was required to set it up.  His fountains were made of iron, of extra heavy castings.

The base had a trough for dogs and other small animals. The bowl rested on a column, and was 4 feet 3 inches above the height of the street, a comfortable height for horses to drink at ease. From the center of the bowl there was an ornamental post used to mount an electric or gas light. At the base of the post there were four mythological aquatic figures, and from their mouths the water flowed into the bowl. The waterways through the fountain were constructed so that they would not become clogged nor become frozen in cold temperatures. The fountain installed in Pascoag had a post 20 feet tall, and when the electric lamp was installed, it stood 24 feet tall. The bowl was 56 inches in diameter and held 100 gallons. The bowl of this fountain was placed near the Pascoag Post Office to beautify the area.

 

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