This week we met Barbara Lambesis, an American passionate about Paris and especially the Wallace fountains! The love story began more than 10 years ago, leading to the founding of the Wallace Fountains Society in Paris in 2018 to protect and promote the fountains, but also to its entry into the Carnavalet Museum in April 2022 … Back to our interview (translated from English)!
“In 2013 my life went everywhere … And since I had visited Paris several times and loved the city, I said to myself: what better place than Paris to decide what you will do with the rest of your life? I rented an apartment for 9 weeks and I had a great time: I love the energy of the city, it brought me back to life! I promised myself: “Whatever you do, you will spend 3 months in Paris every year! “
I returned in 2014 and to see Paris you have to walk a lot, so I walked and one day I discovered a Wallace fountain, it was rue de Rivoli : I looked at it for a long time and I really told myself that it was a remarkable sculpture… I realized it was a fountain but I didn’t really know what it was, its history, its name! And there, in my Paris guide, there were 2 lines about them, So I knew they were called the Wallace fountains: the search could begin!
Then I found out they were all over Paris and I told myself I was going to add a goal to my walks and try to find them all! I took a notebook and a camera and started documenting everything: someone had already done it in 2007 but it has never been published so no one had done it before me but I didn’t know! At first, I did it for my own pleasure and I didn’t know what I was going to do with all this information next!
The first year I found 38 then I returned to the United States and immersed myself in the life of Richard Wallace. The following year I found almost 70. And looking for them took me to districts I had never been to!
Originally they were designed to allow access to water for the poor and therefore were located in less affluent neighborhoods, especially the less central districts! And I discovered many gardens, squares, magnificent places … And above all, I have listed the 107 fountains!
I told myself that if I enjoyed doing it, other people might be interested: tourists and locals alike, a 2 hour family walk in search of the fountains, is a great activity for families … and inexpensive! So I created 21 walks in 2015 and proposed the idea of a guide to Eau de Paris, the company responsible for the fountains.
Negotiations and financing took a long time, a lot of back and forth … In the meantime I also tried to find a publisher: I wanted the guide to be ready for 2018, the 200th anniversary of Richard Wallace’s birth. It took a long time between Eau de Paris, Hachette, the British Embassy… I couldn’t find any money!
This is where I came up with the idea of founding a non-profit association, not only to publish the book but also to create a website and other activities to preserve the fountains!
In May 2018 the book was printed, I went back to the embassy and we made a big launch for the book and the association … and we had in mind the 150th anniversary of the fountain in 2022! It was there in particular that I was able to meet Karen Taïeb for the first time, responsible for the heritage, history of Paris and relations with cults. She was very interested in the project and the idea of celebrating the 150th anniversary of Wallace Fountains!
I already had in mind the integration into the Carnavalet museum because the fountains are part of the history of Parisand perhaps in the years to come they will be street lamps, benches, chairs …
The museum wanted one of the oldest fountains, to be restored and functional : a 19th century fountain located in the 14th arrondissement was chosen! The deal stipulated that the foundry that held the mold for the Wallace Fountains would then create a new one to replace the one that supplemented the museum.
This inauguration was a very important stage in this whole adventure! Then in September 2022 there will be many events on the Champs-Élysées in particular or even at the Parc de Bagatelle!
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Wallace fountains, an authentic fountain has just been installed in the museum’s gardens and opened today! @parismi @eudeparis @Paris @wallacefontana @karen_taieb @Ariel Weil T @egregoire #wallace fountain #Carnival Museum pic.twitter.com/P1y6tZZLCQ
– Carnavalet Museum (@carnavaletmuseum) April 13, 2022
If there’s one thing to remember about Richard Wallace, it’s thathe was a very involved philanthropist: he didn’t just write checkshe wanted to make sure that people in need could benefit from this water!
When we are interested in the Wallace fountains, this aspect is also important and resonates with our times … Water will become increasingly scarce and everyone must always have access to it: Wallace fountains can become a symbol of this universal need.
Finally, what’s fascinating is that Wallace sold the rights to the fountains to the foundry, so there are 100 in France outside Paris and 75 outside France, everywhere but Antarctica and Oceania. They are gifts from the City of Paris or from private individuals who decide to install them in their own garden … To have a piece of Paris at home ! “
The Wallace Fountain Society
Download the 21 walks for free to discover the Wallace fountains!
Photo of one: Barbara Lambesis in front of the Wallace fountain on Place Saint-André-des-Arts / © Vivre Paris