The Fountain of Time – Chicago, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

The Fountain of Time

A hollow cement depiction of time's inexorable effect on the human body. 


The product of a 1905 arts grant to the city of Chicago, for over a century the epic sculpture called Fountain of Time has been reminding people that their time on this Earth is limited.

Dedicated in 1922, the expansive Washington Park installation depicts 100 human figures from across the age spectrum: infants to crones, soldiers to schoolchildren. The figures seem to rush across an arch towards some uncertain future, all watched over by the imposing figure of Father Time, who is hooded and carries a scythe. The figures are intentionally generic, although the sculptor—Lorado Taft—did include himself and one of his assistants on the western side of the piece. It serves as not only as a stark rendering of mortality, but also as a memorial to the first 100 years of peace between the United States and Great Britain following the War of 1812.

Fountain of Time is constructed from hollow concrete reinforced with steel, which has held up with varying degrees of success. (Concrete was an unusual material for sculpture at the turn of the century—Taft wasn’t given a big enough budget to use granite or marble.) The piece eventually required an expansive restoration, which took place gradually over the last few decades. Now, it seems Fountain of Time has plenty of time left.

Know Before You Go

Off of Lake Shore Drive at 57th, take Stony Island to the Midway Plaisance. Turn right on the Midway heading east, and take it all the way to the end of Hyde Park, on the barrier between Hyde Park and Washington Park. On the Midway, you'll see the fountain. Parking is only available on the Midway.

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