Mellon Fountain is a beautiful tribute in bronze, granite, and quartz to Andrew Mellon, a wealthy industrialist, statesman, and founder of the National Gallery of Art. The gallery sits across Constitution Avenue just a short walk from the fountain.
Sculpted by Sidney Waugh, the fountain features three nested bronze basins that allow water from a 20-foot spouting jet to cascade from the smaller center basins into larger circular basins below—and ultimately into a fourth granite basin at the bottom.
The largest of the bronze basins is adorned with the signs of the zodiac, which reportedly sit in their correct astrological positions for the sun’s rays. This bronze basin was the largest of its kind ever cast at the time of construction. The fountain is encircled by a granite walkway and a large, semicircular granite bench. Waugh also has sculptures located outside the National Archives and the Federal Reserve Board buildings.
The fountain, initially dedicated in 1952, was out of operation between 2008 and 2016. After a restoration effort funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the fountain spouted to life on March 17, 2016, during the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the National Gallery of Art. Today, it is still running strong.
Know Before You Go
The inscription on the bench reads:
"1855.ANDREW W.MELLON.1937FINANCIER.INDUSTRIALIST.STATESMANSECRETARY OF THE TREASURY 1921–1932 AMBASSADOR TO GREAT BRITAIN 1932–1933FOUNDER OF THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART 1937THIS FOUNTAIN IS A TRIBUTE FROM HIS FRIENDS"