Fancy Water Fountains In A NY Public School

I love scouting turn of the century public schools in New York because you find all these neat little details no one would ever think to spend money on today. One bit from a school I scouted recently: all the water fountains had neat tile aches around them…


…and in the center, these really fantastic little clay pictures:


I found another around the corner…


…a very cool Puss In Boots:


So many great details up close…


Vines around a column:


I’m sure the kids don’t pay much attention to these in their daily travels, but I really really believe this sort of thing has a subtle but strong positive effect. I mean, at the very least, it’s gotta be better than this, right?

Try hard to find out what you're good at and what your passions are, and where the two converge, and build your life around that. Joshua Lederberg

Picture by Katerha


PS – I had to go out of my way to call those things water fountains. They’re bubblers, dammit!

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  1. a sidenote scout. i wouldn’t ask someone on the west side (midtown)
    where the bubblers are as your likely to get a really bad stare or even worse. i remember kids relocating from out of state to my high school in brooklyn calling soda a pop. they learned fast that it’s best not
    to use that word or your likely to get a pop and it’s not out of a bottle. some other words come to mind as well. growing up on the beach in rockaway, tourists calling waves, breakers. i won’t even
    mention houston street….
    as always, good post!

  2. Lovely! Since the fountains themselves have obviously been replaced, I guess we can be grateful they didn’t tear out the tile!

  3. Beautiful! What school is this?

    • Omg Scout are you a fellow Rhode Islander????? It’s the only place I know of that has bubblahs!

      • Ha, nope, but close – Massachusetts.

        • Where about’s in the commonwealth? I’m originally from the Bx but I’m typing this from just outside of wormtown. BTW: I realized that I had become a New England-er when I went into a NYC deli and ordered an Italian grinder. I got a really strange look from the counter guy

  4. Actually, Wisconsinites say bubbler! I am a transplanted New Yorker who is still amused by my beloved cheeseheads! Of course, after many years, I still say “on line” instead of “in line”. Love the fountains. Your posts always make me homesick!

  5. Those are amazing and I agree about the subtle influences that can change attitudes. And Wisconsin calls them bubblers as well!

  6. Bubblers. I like you even more now. (One of us. One of us.) (Though I’m a Wisconsinite.)

    I absolutely LOVE that Puss in Boots tile. If we’d have had a bubbler like that in my school, I’d have visited it every chance I got.

  7. Bubblers? You must be from New England! Do you go to a deli and ask for a grinder?!
    Love the tile work – I’m with you, feed kids beauty. It shouldn’t be optional.

  8. It’s a blessing to give kids these flashes of beauty, even in highly functional surroundings. I was going to say that I hope the kids appreciate this gorgeous tilework, but then I realized it almost doesn’t matter: even if their only experience of it is sub-conscious, they’ve benefited. Thanks for sharing!

    My mom is from Massachusetts and I remember her saying “bubbler” when I was a little girl, too. I don’t think you should change your ways on our account!

  9. I went to a high school outside of Buffalo NY–Amherst Central High School–where the drinking fountain niches were very similar. It was built in 1929/30 and I was there this last summer for it’s 80 birthday. Happy to see that the tile work was still in place. In fact except for new bathrooms and furniture, the place was amazingly the same. It’s great when well built public buildings are maintained instead of torn down for some shoebox, concrete-block building.

  10. Bubblers? Born and raised in Iowa with a bunch of Badger relatives, and never heard them called anything but ‘water fountains’. Love old schools myself – what was my junior high had been Ames High School until the early 1960s, so our junior high had a full size gym, auditorium, etc. It was built around 1910 and the part I loved about it most was the extensive woodwork everywhere. Nothing like the white tile schools of today you showed us. That building was built well enough that after my 9th grade year, they closed it, gutted the inside, and turned into the new Ames City Hall. Gutted, but kept the woodwork wherever possible. Loved seeing the building saved for future generations, albeit in a different function.

  11. I’m from New South Wales, Australia, and we always called them bubblers. The phrase ‘water fountain’ was considered to be ‘So American’.
    Cheers, Scout.

  12. The tile work is gorgeous!! I don’t think it “aches”, though….lol

  13. bubblers in WI 🙂 apparently you have a lot of readers from WI!

  14. Definitely Bubblers! I’m a ‘sconi originally spreading the bubbler love in Atlanta now. I’ve got locals saying it now, which is awesome in my twisted mind.

    I bet you that the bubblers originally tin hose archways were big white porcelain ones that could very well have been actual Kohler bubblers. My dorm in college still had them and I used to love showing people the stamped name on the nozzle who would ask me whats a bubbler?

  15. Being a student of NYC Public School (PS 207 !)
    A great many schools have a lot of weird things going on in them from over the years. I remember there was some sort of blocked off doorway to the auditorium I was always interested in. I think it must’ve been a projection booth at one time judging from my vague recollection. Some schools have a great deal of interesting finds for sure.

  16. How does one become a film location scout? I’m very interested.