Have you ever walked past the fountain at the corner of
Market and Kearney Streets in San Francisco, and
wondered, "Who was Lotta - and why does she have a
fountain?" Lotta, was Lotta Crabtree (1847-1924), who
by the age of 27 was one of the wealthiest actresses in
America. She (Charlotte) came to San Francisco from
New York - when she was six years old with her mother.
Her father had come before them - searching for gold in
the Gold Country. Her mother rented a place on
Telegraph Hill. At one point they also lived in Grass
By the age of 8, Lotta was touring the Gold Country - singing, dancing and playing the banjo. Children were a rare sight in the mining camps and therefore a huge attraction. By the age of 12 she was known as "Miss Lotta - the San Francisco Favorite." She had made her name in the West by the age of 17 - so the family left to tour the East Coast where Lotta starred in playsfor 142 years. It's not just a fountain - it's history!
At the age of 45 in 1892, she retired from the stage where she was still playing the parts of children. She never married, many believing because it would have ruined her persona as an ingenue.
During the 1906 earthquake and the resulting devastation, many San Franciscians used the cast iron fountain, that was still standing, as a meeting point. Notes were left there by people trying to locate loved ones. A commemoration of the earthquake is held there every year, on April 18th - at 5:12 a.m. Thousands of San Franciscians also gathered there on Christmas Eve, 1910, when the legendary opera soprano, Luisa Tetrazzini sang for the people of San Francisco.
Lotta did return to San Francisco in 1915 when LOTTA CRABTREE DAY was celebrated at the Panama Pacific International Exposition, and also at LOTTA'S FOUNTAIN.
In 1999, the fountain, which had suffered neglect in the past decades, was totally refurbished to its 1875 appearance. Next time you're in the city pause at Lotta's Fountain and contemplate all the people that passed by there for 139 years. It's not just a fountain - it's history!