Pioneer Monument

Denver Public Art 1%


1911.1.1
The Pioneer Memorial Fountain has a central column featuring an equestrian statue of pioneer guide Kit Carson. Three figural groups around the fountain’s lower basin depict a trapper, a prospector, and a pioneer mother. The figures are cast bronze while the stonework is in granite. The column rises from a plinth set in the fountain basin, and the three figural groups appear at the outer rim of the basin. Carson appears mounted, wearing buckskin clothing and carrying a rifle. The horse's right front leg is raised, and Carson gestures forward with his right arm while holding the rifle with his left and looking over his left shoulder. Three fish heads and three ox skulls with decorative garlands, also bronze, appear in high relief evenly distributed on or around the base of the upper basin immediately below Carson. The plinth is decorated with three bronze cornucopias which sit on three stone volutes with cast bronze animal pelts. There is a bronze plaque in a shield form representing the State of Colorado between the cornucopias behind the prospector. The prospector reclines on his right side. The pioneer mother appears on the north face of the fountain, holding a rifle in her proper right arm and a child in her left. Her left elbow rests on a cradle and blanket. The trapper appears on south west side. He is dressed in buckskin and holds a rifle in his left arm. He reclines on an animal head with antlers, and is accompanied by a dog. Below these figures there are three mountain lion gargoyles mounted among the steps feeding the horse watering basin. Bronze dedicatory plaques are mounted on the outermost faces of the three basins below the mountain lions' heads.

"Pioneer Monument" was conceived by the Real Estate Exchange and Mayor Speer in 1905. The site was the end of the Smokey Hill trail, which started in Kansas. Before the sculpture was erected, there was a fire station pump house on the site. Frederick MacMonnies was selected to create the sculpture. He was from Philadelphia but living in Paris. He also constructed the fountain at the Columbian Exhibition/World’s Fair in Chicago in the late 1800s. The cornerstone was laid in 1910 and the completed monument was dedicated in 1911. A major restoration occurred in 1983 and a time capsule was discovered containing “Hall’s History of Denver,” a copy of 1911 Municipal Facts and the pen used to sign the Pioneer Monument Bill in 1907. A new time capsule was added in 1983, containing a TV Guide, coins from the Denver Mint, a computer printout and calculator, photographs from 16th Street Mall and of the Denver skyline, the seals of the City and County of Denver, and letters from Governor Lamm and Mayor Pena. 

Frederick MacMonnies (was created by)
Ladd Singer Construction Company (engineer)
Robert W. Speer (mayor)