Sunday, January 19, 2014

Testing the waters. . .

Given To the Little Children of New Orleans
Sara Lavinia Hyams
One hundred years ago a rich old lady bequeathed her jewels to the City of New Orleans parks department. She had preceded her husband in death. His gifts would come later.

We stumbled onto this lovely but tired-looking reflecting pool in a quiet out-of-the way corner today and enjoyed looking at the inscriptions thereon, as well as the sculpted image of a youth gingerly sticking a toe in the water. He looked to be at about the age of manhood, about that time when young men strike out on their own.

The inscription chiseled in granite on the back of today's discovery reads:
"By bequest, Mrs. Chapman H. Hyams left her jewels to Audubon and city parks the proceeds of which were to build a testimonial of her love for her home city. This foundation is erected March 1921in a faithful endeavor to realize her wishes.She loved the beautiful and gave that all might enjoy."

The inscription on the face of the monument includes the date MCMXIV, which we calculate to be 1914. So it must have taken the city seven years to get this project completed, thereby keeping the memory of Sara Lavinia Hyams and her jewelry alive to this day. Her husband, a stockbroker, died in 1923 and left numerous gifts to the New Orleans museum of art.

When we got home, we looked up Mrs. Hyams and note that the lovely shallow pool she left is not without controversy:

New Orleans philanthropist, Sara Lavinia Hyams, died in 1914, bequeathing her jewelry collection, valued at $30,000, to be sold and the profits used to construct a fountain in both Audubon Park and City Park, for the children of the city. The fountains--which are actually more like wading pools--were duly constructed and provided a place for young children to splash and cool off in the summer heat for many years thereafter.
The folks who run City Park have been good stewards of Sara Hyams' gift. The Sara Lavinia Hyams Memorial Fountain is well-maintained, a part of the Carousel Garden, and is still providing cooling entertainment for the children.
However, the Audubon Institute, who manages Audubon Park, has not followed City Park's example. The wading pool where generations of New Orleanians made happy childhood memories under the shade of the moss-covered oaks, is--and has been for many years-- neglected, broken and unusable. It seems that the Institute, for all the strides it's made in the Park and Zoo, has no interest in Sara Hyams' magnificent gift to "the little children of New Orleans." Nancy

We couldn't find a date on the posting.


Anonymous said...

OOoh, somebody didn't like somebody!

They both look beautiful to me....

ex=Seahawk fan

Becky Jerdee said...

This makes me think of our walking tour through the much carved'd love it! Lots of stories there.