What is the big planter in the middle of Main Street that traffic has to maneuver around?

It is a monument dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Max Wagner, who lost his life in the Spanish-American War. The entire lower end of Main Street in front of the Pacific Club is Max Wagner Square. Wagner was born in 1866 in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1890 he moved to Nantucket and married Jennie Macy, a descendant of the very first of the English founding families on Nantucket. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Wagner—who was already a U. S. Army veteran—re-enlisted, serving first in Puerto Rico and then in the Philippines, where he was killed in 1900. The square and the monument were dedicated to his memory in 1932.

The monument in the square is a repurposed drinking fountain that was anonymously donated to the town in 1885. It was originally located up at the top of the square. The lower basin was for horses to drink from, and there are spigots above that provided streams of fresh water for thirsty pedestrians. When it was moved downhill, it was disconnected from the water main that enters Main Street from Centre Street in front of the Methodist Church and the Pacific Bank.

Today the Nantucket Garden Club keeps the fountain filled with seasonal flowers and greens, and traffic moving up Main Street must flow around it.

To learn more about veterans’ memorials on Nantucket, see Frances Karttunen’s books, Nantucket Places and People 1: Main Street to the North Shore, and Nantucket Places and People 2: South of Main Street, available from the NHA Museum Shop

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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