Seattle Now & Then: The Naramore Fountain

(click to enlarge photos)

tsutakawa-1967-then
THEN: Art Critic Sheila Farr describes George Tsutakawa’s fountain at 6th and Seneca as showing a “style that lends modernism with philosophical and formal elements of traditional Asian art, a combination that became emblematic of the Northwest school.” (Photo by Frank Shaw)
fountain-slow
NOW: The original hope that the Naramore Fountain would soften the environment of the Interstate-5 Freeway was later greatly extended with the construction of its neighbor, Freeway Park. For reference, the Exeter Apartments at 8th and Seneca can be seen upper-right in both the “now and then.” (Photo by Jean Sherrard)

The “Fountain of Wisdom” is the name for the first fountain that Japanese-American sculptor George Tsutakawa built a half-century ago. The name was and still is appropriate for the fountain was sited beside swinging doors into Seattle Public Library’s main downtown branch.  In 1959 it was on the 5th Avenue side of the modern public library that replaced a half-century old stone Carnegie Library on the same block.  Five years ago this “first fountain” was moved one block to the new 4th Avenue entrance of the even “more modern” Koolhouse Library.

As the sculptor’s fortunes developed after 1959 his work at the library door might have also been called “ Tsutakawa’s fountain of fountains” for in the following 40 years he built about 70 more of them including the one shown here at the southeast corner of 6th Avenue and Seneca Street.  Named for Floyd Naramore, the architect who commissioned it, this fountain site was picked in part to soften the “edge of the freeway” especially here at Seneca where northbound traffic spilled into the Central Business District.

Photographer Frank Shaw was very good about dating his slides, and this record of late installation on the fountain, was snapped on June 10, 1967.  Tsutakawa is easily identified as the man steadying the ladder on the right.  Not knowing the others, I showed the slide to sculptor and friend Gerard Tsutakawa, George’s son, who identified the man on the ladder as Jack Uchida, the mechanical engineer “who did the hydraulics and structural engineering for every one of my fathers’ fountains.”

Gerard could not name the younger man with the hush puppies standing on one of the fountain’s petal-like pieces made sturdy from silicon bronze.  However, now after this “story” has been “up” for two days, Pat Lind has written to identify the slender helper on the left. Lind writes, “The young man in the ‘then’ photo is Neil Lind, a UW student of Professor George Tsutakawa at the time, who helped install the fountain.  Neil Lind graduated from the  UW and taught art for 32 years at Mercer Island Junior High and Mercer Island Hight School until his retirement.  His favorite professor was George Tsutakawa.”

When shown Jean Sherrard’s contemporary recording of the working fountain Gerard smiled but then looked to the top and frowned.   He discovered that the tallest points of its sculptured crown had been bent down.  A vandal had climbed the fountain.  Gerard noted, “That’s got to be corrected.”

WEB EXTRAS

Jean writes: It is nigh impossible to capture the visual effects of a fountain in a photograph. I took the THEN photo used by The Times with a nearly two-second shutter speed to approximate the creamy flow of white water over the black metal of the sculpture.  But there’s another view, shot at 1/300s of a second, that freezes the individual drips and drops.

Shot at 1/300s of a second
More particles than waves

The actual fountain must lie somewhere between the two.

A wider view with onramp and red umbrella
A wider view with on-ramp and red umbrella

A FEW FRANK SHAW COLOR SLIDES – SEATTLE ART

We have made a quick search of the Frank Shaw collection – staying for now with the color – and come up with a few transparencies that record local “art in public places” most of it intended, but some of it found.  Most of these are early recordings of subjects that we suspect most readers know.  We will keep almost entirely to Shaw’s own terse captions written on the sides of these slides.  He wrote these for himself and consequently often he did not make note of the obvious.   He also typically wrote on the side of his Hasselblad slides the time of day, and both the F-stop and shutter speed he used in making the transparency.  He was disciplined in recording all this in the first moment after he snapped his shot.  Anything that we add to his notes we will “isolate” with brackets.  The first is Shaw’s own repeat of the Naramore fountain at 6th and Seneca.

6th &Seneca Fountain, June 11, 1967
6th &Seneca Fountain, June 11, 1967
Kids on Archisculpture Whale in Occidental Park, March 29, 1974
Kids on Archisculpture Whale in Occidental Park, March 29, 1974
"Black Sun" - Volunteer Park - Dec. 28, 1969
"Black Sun" - Volunteer Park - Dec. 28, 1969
Sculpture, Full View - Highland Drive, Feb 1, 1970  ["Changing Form" by Doris Chase in Kerry Park on W. Highland Drive.  Ordinarily this peice is photographed with the city's skyline behind it.  Shaw's look to the southwest is not conventional.]
Sculpture, Full View - Highland Drive, Feb 1, 1970 ("Changing Form" by Doris Chase in Kerry Park on W. Highland Drive. Ordinarily this peice is photographed with the city's skyline behind it. Shaw's look to the southwest is not conventional.)
Fountain by Science Pavilion - May 30, 1962
Fountain by Science Pavilion - May 30, 1962
Ferry Terminal Fountain from above, Dec. 31, 1972. [Another by Tsutakawa]
Ferry Terminal Fountain from above, Dec. 31, 1972. (Another by Tsutakawa)
Group by City Hall Fountain, Oct 6, 1962
Group by City Hall Fountain, Oct 6, 1962
Lion in front of Seattle Art Museum, June 19, 1962
Lion in front of Seattle Art Museum, June 19, 1962
Fountain at New Waterfront Park, Nov. 26, 1974
Fountain at New Waterfront Park, Nov. 26, 1974
Fountain in Playhouse Plaza, May 30, 1962
Fountain in Playhouse Plaza, May 30, 1962
Boys on Plaza Fountain, Civic Center, June 1, 1963
Boys on Plaza Fountain, Civic Center, June 1, 1963
Seattle First's sculpture with new Bank of California Building, Feb./21/74
Seattle First's sculpture with new Bank of California Building, Feb./21/74
Frank Shaw's 1980 return to Moore's art at the northwest corner of 4th and Madison beside what was once nicknamed "The Black Box."
Frank Shaw's 1980 return to Moore's art as furniture at the northwest corner of 4th and Madison beside what was once nicknamed "The Black Box."
Frank Shaw returned to Moore's sculpture in March 1983, this time with black & white film in is camera, to record a springtime event he does not name with his caption.
Frank Shaw returned to Moore's sculpture in March 1983, again with black & white film in his camera, to record a springtime event he did not identify.
World War I Memorial "Dough Boy" Statue, July 17, 1966
World War I Memorial "Dough Boy" Statue, July 17, 1966

Rededication of Totem Pole, Aug. 21, 1972.  [In Pioneer Square - Can you name those politicians?]
Rededication of Totem Pole, Aug. 21, 1972. (In Pioneer Square - Can you name those politicians?)
Progress Report - Pioineer Square,  Jan 14, 1973 [Note that the Olympic Block to the far side of the Pergola and on the southeast corner of Yesler and First Ave. S. - has half fallen in.]
Progress Report - Pioneer Square, Jan 14, 1973 (Note that half of the Olympic Block - to the far side of the Pergola and on the southeast corner of Yesler and First Ave. S. - has fallen in.)
View across Pioneer Square from Olympic Buildilng area. FEb. 7, 1974.  [The collapse secton of the  Olympic block provided for a few months Pioneer Square's own repeat of the romantic passion for classic ruins.]
View across Pioneer Square from Olympic Building area. Feb. 7, 1974. (The collapsed section of the Olympic block provided for a few months Pioneer Square's own opportunity for indulging the romantic passion for classic ruins.)

An example of Frank Shaw modern sensibility is this recording of what he describes as "Garbled Billboard on 1st Ave., April 5, 1972.]
An example of Frank Shaw's sometimes modern sensibility is this recording of what he describes as "Garbled Billboard" on 1st Ave., April 5, 1972.
"Concrete Block, Tree on Fill Area North of Alaskan Way, May 23, 1975.  [With his fascination for the dumped concrete blocks Frank Shaw was looking south through the location of SAM's future Sculpture Park.]
Concrete Block, Tree on Fill Area North of Alaskan Way, May 23, 1975. (With his fascination for these dumped concrete blocks Frank Shaw was presciently looking south through the location of SAM's future Sculpture Park.)

5 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Naramore Fountain”

  1. The George Tsutakawa fountain that was at the old Burien Library, has disapeared from the “new” library. Burien’s most important piece of public art has gone MIA. Why? Where is it? This is what I and many others in the Burien area are asking.

  2. Much of Bruce Chapman is also in there. He was elected to the Seattle City Council in 1971 and this Republican took then an activists interest in historic preservation. Between 1981 and 1983 he was director of the U.S. Census Bureau, a Reagan appointee. More recently he founded a “think tank” which has famously promoted the “intelligence design” response to the by now classic theory of evolution.

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