Excerpt from Cosmos Club Legacies: The Land and Townsend Decorative Arts
by Laurence J. Aurbach
Published by the Cosmos Club January 31, 2013
The most prominent feature in the East Garden is the Tacca Fountain. the image below shows the original fountain in Florence which can be seen from the Garden Bar next to the door to the East Garden. According to Paul Miller, “The wonderful bronze fountain was copied from a pair in the Piazza della Santissima Annuziata in Florence by Pietro Tacca, dated 1629 and executed with the collaboration of his students Bernardino Radi and Francesco Maria Bandini; the Townsend version was probably the work of the Chiurazzi Foundry, Naples,(est. 1870) which particularly at the turn of the century produced copies of museum works and civic monuments throughout Italy. Beaux-Arts residences of the Gilded Age, although heavily French-inspired, were frequently surrounded by ‘classical’ gardens which were in essence Italianate; thus the Italian references of the Townsend garden sculpture program, spanning the early medieval or Romanesque to the Baroque, constitute in spirit, an amazingly intact urban
example of its age.”
In 1902 Fredrick L. Olmsted, Jr. (CC 1917-1957) proposed a landscaping plan for the Townsends. His projects in D.C. included the National Mall, the Jefferson Memorial, and the White House grounds. A 1902 Olmsted photograph shows the fountain used as a flower container near the house. At the time the Club acquired the property in 1950, the Tacca Fountain was located fairly close to the Florida Avenue side of what is now the West Garden
In 1952 the Club moved the fountain, stripped down and without its wings, to the East Garden. In 1992 the fountain was restored with funds provided by the Cosmos Club Historic Preservation Foundation.
Then the Club’s copy of the Tacca Fountain operated on the property as a fountain, however, with different supports for the wings than the original and without a garland around the middle. An Italian ambassador remarked that the fountain is far better sited in the Club’s East Garden than the pair in Florence. The originals are nearly lost in the large Renaissance piazza north of the center of Florence and the Academia, location of Michelangelo’s David.