By Erik Gould
Paul Bajnotti was a wealthy nobleman and diplomat from Turin Italy. Visiting Providence in 1875, Bajnotti meets Caroline (Carrie) Brown, the younger of two daughters of Nicolas Brown II, for whom Brown University is named. Bajnotti quickly falls for Carrie, seeing in her eyes “openness and sunshine”. His love is reciprocated and the couple weds in 1876.
For the next 16 years they live in Paris, Rome and in Turin, with visits back to Providence. In the fall of 1892 Carrie contracts the flu which escalates into pneumonia. For eleven days she lies in her bed, wracked with fever and chills. At last Carrie is unable to overcome her illness and she dies on April 6, 1892. Her husband who was by her side throughout the ordeal is left “sorrowing and heart-broken”.
Bajnotti’s sorrow and love is such that he soon commissions not just one memorial for his wife, but three. Along with this fountain in Burnside Park there is a clock tower known as “Carrie Tower” on the green of Brown University near Waterman Street, and a second fountain in Roger Williams Park. Interestingly, in his will he also left a sum of money, the interest from which was to be given each year as a dowry to the “most virtuous maiden among the common people of Providence”. This bequest was declined by the City Fathers.
The Burnside Park fountain, entitled “Struggle of Life” was commissioned by Bajnotti in 1899 and dedicated in 1901. It was created by the American artist Enid Yandell who describes the theme of the sculpture as “the attempt of the immortal soul within us to free itself from the handicaps and entanglements of its earthly environments”.
A central bronze casting in a granite basin depict four allegorical figures. The Angel of Life with the mantle of truth over its shoulders struggles with three male nude figures representing earthly tendencies: Duty, Passion, and Avarice. The bronze casting was done at the Gorham Manufacturing foundry on Elmwood Avenue.
“Love is strong as Death” is the inscription he placed on base of the Carrie Tower. The three monuments stand today in testament to the love Paul Bajnotti has for his wife and for the enduring connection they both have to Providence.