Catholic Total Abstinence Fountain

Philadelphia, PA



Dating from the Centennial Exposition, the Catholic Total Abstinence Fountain was dedicated by a local organization advocating temperance. The fountain originally included 16 drinking fountains to supply Philadelphians with fresh drinking water in lieu of alcohol. The central component of the fountain, a monumental statue of Moses atop a stone mound, and the four surrounding statues and fountain wall were carved in Austria of native Tyrolese marble by German sculptor Herman Kirn. The fountain basin itself and all of the sculpture platforms are constructed of Vermont granite.

Materials Conservation started with a condition assessment which identified general deterioration, atmospheric soiling, biological growth, disaggregating stone, corroding mechanical repairs and open mortar joints in which several small shrubs had taken root. The Father Matthew sculpture had been struck by lightning in 1911 and that long-ago repair was failing. We next ran treatment tests to address each of these conditions and present solutions for large scale implementation.


When full conservation got underway, MC removed all previous modifications and repairs. We disassembled the basin in order to grout underneath it and injection grouted the entire mound, filling fissures with over 400 cubic yards of grouting material. New pieces were either cast or carved to replace missing sculptural elements. The entire fountain was thoroughly cleaned, and a lime wash was applied, unifying the color of the massive fountain and its various components.

The goal of the project was not to immediately restore the fountain to working condition, but rather to conserve the site as a sculptural group, while retaining the option of reactivation as a water feature or fountain in the future.

Sukari Keetin