Located in the center of DuPont Circle, this white marble fountain is the second monument to Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont to exist at this location. The original monument was a bronze statue commissioned by Congress in 1882 and installed nearly three years later in December of 1884. Congress appropriated $20,500 for the project, which included renaming what had previously been called “Pacific Circle” under the L’Enfant Plan.
Admiral Du Pont was a naval officer who distinguished himself during the Mexican-American and Civil wars. He played a significant role in the modernization of the U.S. Navy and successfully commanded Union Naval forces during the Union blockade against the Confederacy.
By the early 20th century, the statue’s base had settled and begun to lean, resulting in jokes that Du Pont and sailors like him were alcoholics. The Du Pont family, which had never been particularly fond of the monument, decided to lobby Congress for a replacement, which they would fund themselves. On February 26, 1917, following assurances by the Du Pont family that it would come at no cost to the Federal Government, Congress authorized the erection of a fountain to replace the earlier statue. The family hired architect Henry Bacon and sculptor Daniel Chester French to design the fountain and spent $77,521 on the commission. The fountain was formally dedicated on May 17, 1921.
This white marble fountain, enriched with sculpture, consists of a lower marble basin from which rises a tall pedestal, surmounted by an elegantly proportioned marble bowl. Each of the three alcoves into which the pedestal is divided contains a delicately wrought sculptural figure representing the parts of ocean navigation. The Sea, a woman, holds a boat in one hand and caresses a gull with the other while a dolphin plays at her feet. The Wind, a male, is draped by the swelling sail of a ship. His left hand holds a conch shell for a horn. The Stars, a goddess, holds a globe. Her eyes look down on visitors.