Edith Latham and her brother Milton had been gathering the memory of their parents in drawers, cabinets and living rooms until there was no longer space. Their need for a permanent storage site and longing to share the memories led them to imagine a memorial fountain in the center of Oakland, the city James and Henrietta Latham had pioneered. The children wrote a letter to Mayor Mott requesting his assistance in exchange for the resources required and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to guide the humanitarian representation of the Lathams into the future. The children then began sifting through their memories, boiling them on the stovetop, and pouring the reduced contents into large basins.
They boiled Mr. Latham's letters from the US-Mexican war, documents from his brokerage business, and his love of local zoological gardens. They boiled the vegetarian cookbook Mrs. Latham authored, her watercolors of California, and the stories she told of the gold rush. They boiled their parent's early accounts of Oakland, their home on 17th and Jackson, and their animal rights activism. Finally, the boiled their father's death while aboard a ship in 1876, their heartbroken expressions of their mother until her passing in 1909, and the routine answers Edith and Milton gave as to why neither one of them had ever gotten married. The water smelled of ink, compassion, and wrought iron until it was strained. Then it became clean drinking water that has the faint taste of memories, as water often does.
The morning the fountain arrived Mayor Mott admired its beauty and utility. There were bronze carvings of wheat and angels, four troughs of pink Maine granite, and drinking spouts for citizens, beasts and birds. Memory water for the fountain arrived by train from the children. The city integrated the liquid into the memorial's system and all waited for the history to begin touring the streets from the mouths of current residents. On April 12, 1913 the Latham Memorial Fountain officially entered the landscape and the soft sounds of men and women, horses and birds sipping water concluded the dedication ceremony.
Block Gallery and the Downtown Oakland Association are pleased to present Latham Memorial Fountain Unveiled, a site-specific text installation by Kari Marboe. With a unique style, Marboe tells the story of how the fountain came to be in Latham Square using history form the Oakland Public Library. This work focuses on the structure of the memorial fountain artwork and how citizens are preserved within the city.
This is a free public installation, opening November 1, 2013 and will be on display until April 2014.