Chapman Hyams, a New Orleans stockbroker in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and his wife, Sara, were world travelers with a passion for art. Sara, after traveling in Europe with her husband, took ill and died in September 1915.
In her will, she made two bequests that have made lasting impressions on New Orleans: She left a large collection of French paintings and sculptures to the New Orleans Museum of Art; it was considered to be the most important donation the museum received in its first 40 years.
She also donated her jewelry collection to be sold, with proceeds from the sale to be used to build two fountains and wading pools at City Park and Audubon Park. The fountains were designed by Isidore Konti and are constructed of granite, with bronze sculptures of children at play.
The wading pools, known as the Sara Lavinia Hyams Fountains, were opened in 1921 and are inscribed with, “Given to the little children of New Orleans.” The City Park fountain, part of the Carousel Gardens, has been regularly maintained over the years and was refurbished in 1989. The one at the Audubon Zoo, however, has had long periods where it was left dry and unused, sometimes for decades at a time. Currently, it’s filled with water and in working condition, and attracting visitors of all kinds, including a large variety of birds.
The Hyams are buried in their mausoleum in Metairie Cemetery, which was designed by Favrot & Livaudas and contains a replica of the “Angel of Grief,” an angel sculpture carved in 1894 by William Story. It is an often-photographed mausoleum and is a fitting remembrance for a couple who did so much to support art in New Orleans.