As one drives by the unassuming home along U.S. 26 they would never guess that a goddess has dwelt within one of the out buildings for over half a century. Hebe, the Greek Goddess of Youth and her companions a pair of naiads fresh water nymphs have been here since the grandfather of the homeowner’s wife purchased them in 1949. The Olympian maiden and her cohorts were originally part of a fountain manufactured by J. W. Fiske & Company of New York City, the most prominent American manufacturer of decorative cast iron and cast zinc in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Fiske’s designs ranged from the naturalistic foliate designs that were the stock-in-trade of mid-Victorian style to sculptures after the Antique or neoclassical works of Antonio Canova or Bertel Thorvaldsen, suitable for park-like landscapes of estates and landscape cemeteries of formal schemes. Fiske was also noted for his hammered copper weather vanes, produced in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn. In fact, the cast-zinc figure of Hebe from the fountain is modeled after a statue of the goddess of youth sculpted by Antonio Canova that is displayed in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg in Russia.
The fountain was originally displayed at the World’s Columbian Exposition, a world’s fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492. The exposition was located in Jackson Park and drew over 27 million visitors. Many of them were well known in numerous fields and included the likes of Louis Comfort Tiffany, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Helen Keller; along with her mentor Anne Sullivan, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, and Scott Joplin. Magician Harry Houdini and his brother Theodore performed their magic act at the Midway. The original Ferris Wheel, built by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. was also at the exposition. This wheel was 264 feet (80 m) high and had 36 cars, each of which could accommodate 40 people.
After the exposition, the fountain was moved to the courthouse in Coschocton, Ohio, about 60 miles Northeast of Columbus. It graced the courthouse lawn from 1894 until 1949 when it was removed to make room for a memorial to the soldiers who served in World War II. It was at this time, the grandfather of the wife of the home owner purchased the figures and brought them home to Hartford City. The home owner is interested in selling the figures, and would like to see them displayed somewhere, such as a museum, so that people could enjoy them. Coschocton, has expressed some interest, but he has yet to receive any firm offer.
Hebe, the Goddess of Youth, is the daughter of Zeus and Hera. She served as the Cupbearer of the Gods, and was later married to Hercules, the protector of Olympus. As the Cupbearer of the Gods, Hebe was charged with serving them nectar and ambrosia. In Greek mythology, the Fountain of Youth was a special fountain the waters of which could either preserve one’s youth eternally or restore youth to one who had lost it. Due to her status as the Goddess of Youth, this fountain could only be summoned and used by Hebe. According to Philostratus the Elder, Hebe was youngest of the gods and responsible for keeping them eternally young, and thus was the most revered by them. These are the legends which reportedly inspired Juan Ponce de Leon to search for the Fountain of Youth which led to his exploration of Florida during the 1500s.
Hebe served nectar to the Gods of Olympus. As a bit of a coincidence, one of the homeowner’s hobbies is bee keeping and he produces his own nectar (honey.) So, from the heights of Mt. Olympus to an unassuming outbuilding near Hartford City, the Cupbearer of the Gods continues to serve the nectar of youth to those she deems worthy.