Thursday, 3 March 2016

Fountains in Central Park

The prompt this week shows a fountain in Mexico from which the local people are filling earthenware jars with water, presumably for drinking. I don't really have much in the way of family photographs of fountains, so instead I thought I would look at the history of  a couple of fountains, which are both located in Central Park, which in this case is not in New York but in the suburb of Malvern East, near where we live.

The first fountain is the Wilmot Fountain, shown below in a photograph taken not long after it and the Conservatory behind it were built.  According to the Stonnington History Centre Catalogue,

  • "The Conservatory was erected in 1927 at a cost of 3,500 pounds. Located on an artificial mound, the Conservatory was open to the public and held permanent and temporary displays. Roller blinds were fitted to provide necessary shade. A sunken garden was built adjacent to the Conservatory to contain the marble fountain presented by the Mayor, Cr. H.G. Wilmot in 1928."

  • From the photo below which I took today it appears that the fountain and Conservatory have changed very little over almost 90 years, but of course the gardens are much more established. The water is flowing and it's a great setting for wedding photographs. One of our girls had lovely professional photographs of the bridal party posing around the fountain a few years ago.


Our daughter Laura's wedding, 1 October 2010. Photo courtesy Lisa Baker Photography,

  • The conservatory now houses the extensive orchid collection of a gentleman called John Varigos. There weren't many orchids currently in flower, but here is a link to his wonderful and amazing variety of orchid photographs on Flickr.

The second fountain in Central Park is the Gilpin Drinking Fountain. Here is a newspaper article describing its inauguration back in 1929. It was a shame the donor Mr Oliver Gilpin couldn't be present due to illness, but perhaps he just needed to drink more water!

Article published in the Age, Melbourne Victoria, Monday 10 March 1930, snipped from the Trove web site.

Present day photograph of the fountain's dedication.

According to the Stonnington History Centre Catalogue, 

  • "Oliver Gilpin (1874-1942) , is the man credited with creating the first major drapery chain store business in Australia.Gilpin opened his first drapery store in Korumburra in 1895. In 1910 the family moved to their new home, 'Kia Ora', in Finch Street East Malvern. Around 1917 the family separated and moved from Finch Street, but the business continued to run from the office in Belson Street. Around 1920 Gilpin subdivided his garden and created two blocks facing Central Park Road.Gilpin remarried and returned to live at 'Kia Ora' in 1921. Gilpin lived at the Finch Street house, with his third wife, from 1928 to 1936. By this time, Gilpin's chain of Drapery stores had grown to ninety-four branches. The business was taken over by Foy &​ Gibson in 1944."

Mr Gilpin's benevolence extended to donating another fountain to the nearby council of Balwyn, where he moved a few years later.

Presentation of the Gilpin Drinking Fountain 1929,

The Gilpin Fountain today, still maintained in working order

Central Park itself was established in the early 1900s, around the time that the first trams ran from the city along Wattletree Road to Burke St. Here is a plan from the Stonnington History Centre Catalogue of the kiosk that was proposed for the park in 1910.

  • Information from the Stonnington History Centre Catalogue:

  • "The photograph [above] shows an August 1910 architectural drawing for a proposed Tea and Refreshment Kiosk at Central Park, East Malvern. The floor plan and site plans show a building close to the corner of Burke Road and Wattletree Road.
  • The garden plan shows the position of gates including a lich gate and flower gardens and the position of flower beds.
  • The building has an octagonal refreshment room with verandah, sweet &​ fruit room and cake stall.
  • In the southern wing are a cloak room and ladies and gentlemen's lavatory. On the west wing are a scullery, kitchen and sitting room, bedrooms and bathroom.
  • Outside this wing are a yard with space for bicycles and preambulators and laundry and coal store.
  • There is also a sketch showing the elevation to Wattletree Road.
  • Crouch, architect, survey and sworn valuer 440 Collins Street, Melbourne is printed in the bottom right corner of the plan.
  • Print made from original 1910 architectural drawing."
                                                     The kiosk at Central Park at the corner of Wattletree Road and Burke Road.                                                                         

  • More from the Stonnington History Centre Catalogue:

  • "Central Park's site originally formed part ofthe 1885 residential subdivision of the Gascoigne Estate. Malvern Council purchased the 18 acre site for Central Park in 1906 for 5000 pounds, and the following year, Curator Thomas Pockett, selected a plan showing a sports oval at the northern end. The site at East Malvern was situated in the centre of Malvern, and was soon named Central Park. When Malvern Council took over the site in 1907, the land was still in the condition of undeveloped parkland. In 1908 tree planting commenced and fences were installed to keep out straying stock.A1907 advertisment for nearby real estate read -'It is expected that the park will form one of the finest public reserves around Melbourne. It is pointed out that the proposed electric tramway will run right to the gates of the new park. It is expected that the park will be in the centre of town and will induce people to patronise the tramway, and thus swell the receipts.'In 1910, the first tram for the Prahran and Malvern Tramway Trust commenced operation and ran down Wattletree Road to the terminus at Burke Road.In 1911 a timber framed kiosk, with a large refreshment room and upstairs accommodation for a caretaker, was constructed on the corner of Wattletree Road and Burke Road. The kiosk was built soon after the opening of the new tram electric service and it was ideally located at the terminus. Visitors arrived by tram to hear the Malvern Tramways Band playing at the newly erected bandstand, located at the rear of the kiosk. Central Park proved to be a great attraction for visitors.A supper room was added to the kiosk in the 1920s where dances, meetings and receptions were held, until the poor state of the building led to its demolition in 1973.The band rotunda was constantly in use during the 1930s but was demolished in 1951."

An example of an advertisement for the Kiosk published in 1913:
Prahran Telegraph 4 January 1913, snipped from Trove web site

Here's another photograph of the the kiosk  in its heyday, showing its convenient location at the tram terminus.

  • The kiosk was popular for dances and for many other public and private social functions. Here are a few examples of events held there.

Prahran Telegraph, 15 April 1911, snipped from trove web site

Prahran Telegraph, 25 May 1923, snipped from Trove web site
Prahran Telegraph, 6 September 1919, snipped from Trove web site
  • Sadly times changed and the Kiosk fell into decline in later years, and was demolished in 1973. Here's the same corner today. The trams still run, but anyone coming to the park without bringing their own supplies has to resort to the nearby shops and cafes for refreshment. Central Park is quite extensive and the council stages various outdoor events there throughout the year. The oval is used by several cricket and soccer clubs and is popular with dog walkers and personal trainers.

Family members playing a game of Kubb in the Park last Sunday after a picnic lunch.

                          Did anyone notice the mention of another kind of fountain in Central Park?

                     For more fountains, whether drinking or just decorative, just click over to Sepia Saturday #320


Kristin said...

That first fountain looks so beautiful surrounded by the 90 year growth of the plants.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Great matches for the prompt. The Peace Dance sounds like quite an event!

La Nightingail said...

The fountain featured in the first two pictures is lovely in its simplicity - especially in the second photo surrounded by lush landscape. And a finely designed bubbling public drinking fountain is always welcome in a park. Parks used to be the ultimate gathering places for the public to meet & enjoy simply planned events for their entertainment. Now it seems we need massive hoopla to inveigle us to attend any sort of event anywhere. Too bad, but - oh well.

Jo Featherston said...

Melburnians still enjoy getting out in their parks - I don't think they need too much encouragement, but there are plenty of local events of one sort or another especially in the summertime, which is still continuing here, temperature-wise at least. 36 deg. C forecast for today!

Postcardy said...

The plants make the Wilmot Fountain and Conservatory look more inviting. Otherwise, they look almost the same.

Wendy said...

What is it about fountains that make them popular backdrops for photos? In Savannah, Georgia where one of my daughters lives the big draw is the fountain at Forsyth Park. By the way, we have a Kubb game too. I am surprised to see it on your blog because nobody I know has ever heard of it.

kathy said...

Are you referring to the soda fountain as the other kind of fountain?

Jo Featherston said...

Yes, you got it :-)

Jo Featherston said...

I hadn't heard of Kubb before last November, when they had a set for the guests to play at our son's wedding while post-ceremony photographs were being taken. His new bride and her family are very much into all kinds of games, and then they gave us a set for Christmas. It's good fun but requires a bit of strategy too.

Mike Brubaker said...

Well done! What a great opportunity to feature your lovely daughter's wedding photo too. Of course there should always be band music for these park events, and I did not know that "patented" soda fountains were an America export! Loved the orchid images too.

Titania Staeheli said...

Fountains seem to make it into many families history. Great and interesting post.

Alex Daw said...

Okay - I'll reveal my ignorance...what on earth is Kubb?

Jo Featherston said...

It's a Scandinavian game played with wooden blocks and sticks. Opposing teams have to try and knock over all the other side's blocks and finally the King. You need to learn a few tricky rules to be successful, or just be lucky. It can be played in snow and ice but grass is good too. Another name for it is Viking Chess.

Nancy said...

The first fountain and the building behind are beautiful but I love that little Gilpin fountain. The entrance to Central Road Park and the buildings behind are very inviting.
--Nancy. (ndmessier @,

Lorraine Phelan said...

Nice work:)
I didn't know about the Stonnington History Centre. I've already checked their catalogue and there are several entries there I will have to follow up so thankyou.

Little Nell said...

Th fountains certainly make great backdrops for wedding photos, and indeed we are always drawn to them when visiting a new city. A great match for this weeks’ prompt.

Sharon said...

Good work on recreating the fountain photo.

Well researched and written.

Anonymous said...

Like Lorraine i sussed out Stonnington HC and got a couple of hits. Thanks.

diane b said...

Interesting history of Central Park and its fountains. Glad to see the two fountains still exist.
Regarding my photos. Yes I do use Lightroom to post process my photos. It was very bad weather for photography just too dull and grey so post processing was necessary to bring out the colours.