We did not collectively dream this. It really did exist. The Willy Wonka-ish, incredible, glass sculpture between the escalators on the first floor of Brandeis Department Store at the Crossroads. Plants everywhere, with a red tiled pool. I can still hear the water splashing just by looking into this glorious photo. I loved the colors and shapes of the glass. I could stand there and daydream. Remember that happy fish on the left side? It smelled so good in that store. The only thing I can liken it to is that clean smell at Joslyn Art Museum. Grand. Marble. Solid Bones. (While you’re staring at this photo, notice those MCM clocks near the tops of those lit up pillars–one on the first floor, one on the second. Also all of the glass cabinets filled with merchandise in the background. Divine.) There was another smaller version of a sculpture fountain by the lower level escalators within the Home Department. It seems to me that it was blue though….many shades of blue. Yes, mosaic. Globe-shaped. Do you remember it too?
Brandeis Department Store Pre-Grand Opening at Crossroads Shopping Center. 72nd and Dodge Street. October 1960. (Photo courtesy of the Bostwick-Frohardt/KM3TV Photography Collection at The Durham Museum Photo Archive.)
This photo was taken right before the 1960 opening of the Brandeis Department Store at the Crossroads. I would not see this fountain for the first time until about 1975 but it seemed to look just the same. Of course we weren’t so quick to change back then and when such high quality materials were used in the first place, there wasn’t a need to change.
Both fountains were filled with pennies. It seems a befitting stage in the life cycle of a penny. My father’s pockets always seemed to be filled with pennies when we went to Brandeis. What an innocent treat it was to throw those pennies in together. Naughty boys would launch their pennies off of the second floor or snap them into the pool as they went up the escalators. I remember looking for the places that the coins would land and collect. The water pump feature seemed to be a big hit. Other times, mysteriously, all of the coins would be gone.
Some friends and I were discussing the Brandeis sculptures, when I had written about them a number of years ago. A girlfriend was curious about who the artist was. In reading this tiny 1960 snippet from the World Herald, I seem to remember knowing that the sculpture’s glass was from Paris. Did my grandmother tell me this when I was a child or was there an engraved brass plate somewhere near those escalators announcing the distinguished history of the Parisian glass? Both seem vaguely familiar.
And here we have it. A tiny article from June 7, 1961—which was Crossroads Shopping Center’s official Grand Opening, although many of the stores had opened in 1960. It turns out that the stunning Brandeis sculpture fountain was created by local artist, Bill Hammon. In addition to the Brandeis pieces, Hammon had created a facade mural for the Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln. Another mosaic, the Pershing sculptural mural, at the time, was the largest in the United States. Hammon also has a number of pieces in local hospitals and a large glass piece at Temple Israel. It touches me to know something of this artist now and that Brandeis, a local department store, would feature a local artist so prominently. We do not see art honored in this way in our national chain department stores. And I have not seen an indoor fountain getting the spotlight in a mall in decades. In a simpler time, Hammon’s sculpture fountain gave so much joy and true entertainment. It’s hard to think of anything that compares to this innocence in 2016.
I am wondering if anyone knows what happened to these Brandeis sculptures? I seem to remember those jaggedy, colorful, glass pieces getting really dusty in the later years. Maybe I just had teenage eyes, but they seemed every bit as fabulous.
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