Historical - Outdoor Sculpture - Water Feature/Fountain
(317) 631-3301 ext. 214
Shelby St and Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN, 46203
Created to top a fountain in 1924 as a memorial to former Indiana Congressman Ralph Hill (1827-1899), Pioneer Family has had an interesting history.
Pioneer Family was included as the topper of the second fountain to be installed at the corner of Virginia Avenue, Prospect Street, and Shelby Street, marking the center of the Fountain Square neighborhood. The first fountain, incorporating the Lady Spray sculpture and known as the “Subscription Fountain” because the local merchants had chipped in to fund it, had stood at the location from 1889-1919. With the popularity of automobiles, both the fountain and Pioneer Family were deemed a traffic hazard and removed: the sculpture was moved to Garfield Park in 1954. Public pressure secured the return of the sculpture in 1969. The third pedestal, base, and fountain were installed in 1979, after more than ten years of petitioning from a determined community organization, and the sculpture was re-dedicated, with a new fountain basin, in its original location. However, historic preservation advocates preferred to reconstruct the fountain with its original sculpture of Lady Spray. This was accomplished in 2010, and Pioneer Family was removed to storage. After the installation of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail was completed in 2014, Pioneer Family was restored to the fountain site, where it now sits closer to ground level for all to enjoy.
The sculpture’s artist is Myra Reynolds Richards (1882-1934). Richards was a nationally recognized artist, a graduate of the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, and at the time of the commission was an instructor at Herron. She is known for her bronze work, including the full-scale portrait of James Whitcomb Riley now in the Hancock County courthouse, and the smaller sculptures Pan and Syrinx elsewhere in Indianapolis.