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January 18, 2020: Bailey Fountain, Brooklyn


That's Nereus or Neptune up there, having a good time playing in the water, along with some of his aquatic minions, seemingly unrelated to the striking couple standing above him.


And that's no accident: He is unrelated, the last remnant of an elaborate late 19th-century colored-lights-and-water affair commonly called 'The Electric Fountain.' In the 1910s, its plumbing and equipment had to be removed to allow subway construction under the area.


When millionaire Frank Bailey wanted a memorial to his late wife, he paid for the new statuary on the old base. Officially, the figures, by Eugene Frances Savage, are supposed to represent wisdom and felicity. One observer's comment: "I assume the man is wisdom and the woman is felicity, but it is not easy to tell because she does not look happy and he does not look wise."

Despite its odd combination of sculpture and messages, it has achieved a special place in Brooklyn history: it is, as my children called it when they were young, "The Wedding Place," where almost any weekend you can find folks in wedding finery waiting to have their pictures taken in front of the fountain.


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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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