Copper and Shell Fountain, Artist Elizabeth Eaton Burton

Copper and Shell Water Fountain in Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Lobby

Copper and Shell Fountain © 2010 Bo Mackison

One afternoon we spent a few enjoyable rainy hours wandering around the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park.

We had tea in the lobby while a fire roared in the fireplace. Then we checked out the Map Room. I took a few photographs of some of the more interesting nooks and crannies including this tiny space, just big enough for a table and two chairs.

And finally we discovered this quaint, copper and shell water fountain.

It took me awhile to track down the information about this artistic creation. I picked up an information sheet about the fountain while we were at the hotel, but in the distraction of arriving home and then preparing for a long weekend trip to New York City, I filled a large pile of brochures and maps in a box to organize some of the clutter from the studio. And then I forgot where I put the box.

A couple of days ago, while in a studio-cleaning mood, I rediscovered the box, and found the story of the fountain. Again.

Since I had tried to find information on the internet, and found nothing, I will write more than usual. It seems the fountain is rather a mystery.

When Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel was renovated in 1993/94, the fountain was brought out of storage and restored in its original space. Evidently it had been removed from the hallway of the hotel and stored in a warehouse in Gardiner, Montana in the mid 1980’s during an earlier remodeling job.

Why it was removed is unknown. In fact, much of the history of the fountain, an Arts and Crafts style fountain with a koi fish design, is unknown. Research in the Yellowstone archives gives no details regarding when the fountain was first installed in the (1937) hotel lobby or why or when the fountain was first obtained by Yellowstone.

The fountain was crafted by metal smith and artist Elizabeth Eaton Burton, a Santa Barbara, Californian.

She worked extensively with metals in the Arts and Crafts style in the early 1900s. It is estimated that the fountain was made circa 1910. The fountain is signed by the artist in her distinctive mark, an oval incorporating a central “B” surrounded by a rounded “E” to the left and a reversed rounded “E” to the right, making up the monogram “EBE”.

The spigot of the fountain was originally a thin copper tube out of which water continually flowed. An on/off switch was added during the re-installation in 1993/4 and the edge of the shell was smoothed to repair damage. Otherwise, the fountain is as it was originally designed.

The fountain has lovely detailing and is truly a work of art. It’s rather amazing that so little is known about it, but we celebrated our finding of such a hidden treasure by having a drink of cold water from the re-fashioned spout of Burton’s copper fountain.

(Some of this information was originally compiled by Randy Ingersoll, Music Coordinator for Xanterra Parks and Resorts, September, 2010, and provided to the public in a written handout distributed in the lobby of Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.)

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Angie Willis says:

    What a fascinating story. I love Arts & Crafts and this is really beautiful.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I love arts and crafts, too. I love the variety of materials that were used. And designs from that period are rather special.

  2. So fascinating. And such exquisite detail captured here.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It was a fascinating piece, made more fascinating by its rather unlikely placement, and the fact that no one seemed to know much about it. I’m thankful Randy Ingersoll made the effort to do some extra research.

  3. What a lovely fountain!
    It’s so art deco to me.
    Very 1920s New York style.
    It’s that really a koi fish?
    It’s a bit strange to have a fresh water fish surrounded by corals, sea weed and a shell from the sea though…

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Hmmm…the research I read called the fish an Asian Koi. I didn’t look further into the fish story, but I sure don;t know much about koi, I’ll admit.

  4. Gret story and interesting image. It looks like a Koi to me. I imagine the artist took a little bit of license, but who knows?

  5. What a treasure, Bo, and so very unique! Thank you for sharing both photo and history with us!

  6. Oh the things one may find..

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