The water source has been standing on Place des Halles – the Market Square since 1681. It existed for almost two centuries in the form of well, and since 1875, as the closed fountain. The location of the fountain, within the square, changed several times.
Today the fountain is the solid structure of yellow Hauterive stone, with the inscription "1681" on the top part. It stands at the confluence of Rue du Coq d'Inde – Turkey Cock street into Place des Halles.
"Many of the 17th and 18th century buildings are made from local yellow sandstone, a fact which led Alexandre Dumas, pere to describe Neuchatel as looking 'like a toytown carved out of butter'." In almost all travel guides on internet there is the same or very similar sentence about Neuchatel. Whether those were the words of Alexandre Dumas or of somebody else – Neuchatel really looks like "carved out of butter" even nowadays. "The butter" actually is yellow sandstone called Hauterive stone because it was dug out of quarry in the village Hauterive near Neuchatel. Hauterive stone is "luminous and fairly solid, yet easy to carve". We have been told by the guide in Chateau that the amounts of Hauterive stone have run very low and they are spared for future reparations of the most important city buildings such as Chateau, Collegiale…
The white fountain with nicely shaped pillar stands at the plateau in front of Neuchatel Hotel-de-Ville – the Town Hall, at the crossing of Rue de l'Hotel-de-Ville and Faubourg de l'Hopital. Its position is the reason for the fountain often being referred to as Fontaine de l'Hopital.
Fontaine de l'Hopital dates back to 1790 – the same year Hotel-de-Ville was completed.
Fontaine du Griffon – the Griffon Fountain was constructed in 1664. It was meant to supply the surplus water from the Castle to the city. The figure on the top, the griffon is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and often wings of an eagle – as the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of the birds, the griffon was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature, the perfect choice for the fountain connecting the Castle – the seat of the ruler, with the city and the citizens. There is legend about Paris-Charles d'Orleans – Duke of Longueville, Estouteville, sovereign of Neufchatel and Valangin, and his brother had wine flow instead of water from the fountain during their visit in 1668.
Once in the middle of crossroads the Griffon Fountain in nowadays calmly settled in Rue du Pommier – Apple Tree street, by the bottom of Escaliers du Chateau – the Castle Stairway.
[…] Jaquet-Droz automata – the three Jaquet-Droz mechanical figurines are probably the most famous "citizens" of Neuchatel. They were created by the famous watch-maker Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz and his often but completely undeservedly forgotten assistant Jean-Frederic Leschot, between 1768 and 1774. Jaquet-Droz automata are wonders of precision, the most perfect achievements of the 18th century mechanics, and they are considered to be among the remote ancestors of modern computers.
The mechanical figurines were designed as an advertisement and entertainment toys, in order to improve the sales of watches among the nobility of Europe in the 18th century. Their immediate success led them all over the world, including Swiss high society, the court of Louis XV in Paris, Brussels, London, Kazan in Russia, Madrid… Sold in 1787 to a Spanish "impresario" they spent the years of the French Revolution in Spain to reappear in Paris in 1812 before starting again their travel through Europe. About 1830, the three figurines were bought by Mr. F. Martin and Mr. H.-L. Bourquin, who, after restoring them, continued to show them in Austria, Germany and in Denmark until 1904, on which date they became the property of the German collector Carls Marfels. Two years later, Marfels sold them for 75.000 francs in gold to the Society of History and Archeology of the canton of Neuchatel which then entrusted them to the Museum of Neuchatel on the 1st of May, 1909.
The three figurines are the Writer, the Drawer and the Musician. Here is the description of the figurines from the Museum leaflet:
"The credit for the essential part of the Writer's (L'Ecrivain) internal construction must go to Pierre Jaquet-Droz. He designed it when his son was still an adolescent, but he was assisted in his research by Jean-Frederic Leschot and other skillet workmen. The Writer's mechanism is extremely complex, much more intricate than those of the other two figurines. It is possible to set the mechanism in such a way the Writer will write any programmed text of not more than forty letters or signs on a moving paper (as a typewriter).
The Musician (La Musicienne) differs from the other two: she is much bigger. She was born in the hands of Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz. The girl plays an organ with two bellows which pump air into 48 pipes. She breathes during her playing and finish each piece of music with a elegant bow. The five melodies she plays were composed by Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz who had studied music. She really does play her instrument, contrary to most automata whose fingers only follow the keys while the instrument does the playing. This detail is further proof of the Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz's genius.
The Draughtsman (Le Dessinateur) with a pen resembles his brother the Writer, but there is a slight difference in his attitude because his paper remains immobile and the hand moves allover the paper. The Draughtsman, who can draw 4 different motives, was made chiefly by Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz, with tine precious assistance of Jean-Frederic Leschot and three expert workmen. The automaton was completed in the relatively short time of two years (1772 – 1774). The Draughtsman's performance is snore spectacular than the Writer's. His mechanism is however far less complicated than that of the Writer."
Jaquet-Droz automata can be seen in action on every first Sunday of the month at 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm or on previous reservation for groups. We have seen the figurines, but we have not been of such luck to see them in action. Short movie about them was a decent replacement.
Fontaine de la Justice – the Justice Fountain was carved by Laurent Perroud between 1545 and 1547. It has octagonal basin decorated with flowers, a pillar and the allegorical figure of Justice with four figures at her feet symbolizing the various forms of government: a pope, a magistrate, an emperor and a sultan, on the top of it. After the restorations in 1990s the fountain gained its original, vividly coloured appearance and, in 1997 the figure of Justice was replaced with the copy, while the original 16th century statue is at the Museum of Art and History.
Almost identical to the Justice Fountain is the oldest fountain in Lausanne – the Justice Fountain too. It was carved by Laurent Perroud and his son Jacques Perroud some 40 years later.
Justice Fountain is located on the crossing of Rue de l'Hopital and Grand'Rue.
We have found the datum on the internet that there are about 140 fountains in the wider area of the city of Neuchatel. Largely dating to the Renaissance, they were set up to supply drinking water to the residents, straight from the springs of the outlying Jura mountains. Many fountains are in the large area of pedestrian zone in the historical center of Neuchatel, every single one of them maintained well and still supplying the city with sparklingly clear water, drinkable and very good.
Neuchatel Fountains, especially the best known of them such as Fontaine du Banneret, Fontaine de la Justice, Fontaine du Griffon… became the symbol of the city itself, along with Hauterive stone, Chateau and Collegiale.
Fontaine du Lion – the Lion Fountain was constructed at the same time as the Griffon Fountain, in 1664. Lion, the king of the beasts, is, similarly to griffon, animal with powerful symbolic meanings. Some 83 years after the Banneret Fountain was created, another lion gets the position on the top of the pillar of a fountain, this time in the "leading role".
The Lion Fountain is in Rue du Bassin, in front of the Temple du Bas, Protestant Temple.
The small, modest fountain in the Rue du Neubourg is one of the oldest Neuchatel fountains. It was built in 1605.
It stands at the upper end of Rue du Neubourg, at its crossing with Rue des Chavannes.
For centuries Neuchatel is one of the most important centers of Swiss watchmaking industry. Typical Neuchatel wall-clocks are of guitar-like shape with Roman number 4 in the "IIII" form, instead of common "IV". One of such examples, constructed by Jaquet-Droz manufacture, is treasured in Chateau. Precious collection of clocks as well as Jaquet-Droz automata can be seen at Musee d'Art et d'Histoire.
Among the successful watchmakers linked with Neuchatel, besides Pierre Jaquet-Droz, Henri-Louis Jacquet-Droz and Jean-Frederic Leschot, are Ferdinand Berthoud, Abraham Louis Breguet, Edouard Bovet, Georges Frederic Roskopf…
An unique atomic clock was developed in 2003 at the Cantonal Observatory of Neuchatel. Pierre Thomann, head of the project at Neuchatel Observatory, stated about that: "For Neuchatel, which has a long tradition of watchmaking, as indeed does the country as a whole, this clock is the perfect symbol".
The fountain in the Rue des Moulins is tiny colorful fountain. Although it is not as attractive as some other fountains in Neuchatel, it is one of the oldest – it was constructed in 1584.
The fountain in the Rue des Moulins is on the crossing of Passage des Boucheries with Rue des Moulins.
Fontaine du Banneret – the Banneret Fountain was the first small fountain out of the former town wall. In 1581 Laurent Perroud embellished it as it now stands. The figure on the top of the pillar rising from the centre of basin is banneret – standard-bearer with lion by his leg. Restored in the same time as Justice Fountain, in 1990s, the Banneret Fountain is brightly coloured according to its 16th century appearance.
Banneret Fountain is on the Croix-du-Marche – Market Crossing.
From the Château we walked down along Rue du Chateau into the downtown. Neuchâtel’s Old Town is very attractive, and random wandering through its steep alleys is a good to appreciate the golden beauty of the architecture, as well as the 140 or so street fountains, a handful of which date from the 16th Century. First one on this tour - the Griffin Fountain (1664) stands on Rue du Chateau. The fountain is famous thanks to Henri II of Orleans who in 1667 had it filled with 1,300 gallons of red wine to honor his entry into Neuchâtel. A two-minute walk east and you reach Rue de l’Hôpital, were is the Fountain of Justice (1547). Further ahead is the magnificent 1790 Hôtel de Ville, designed by Louis XVI’s chief architect Pierre-Adrien Paris. Across the street from the City Hall you will see a modern monument – hanged in the air. Along rue de Moulins are 2 perfect specimens of the Louis XVII period. Turn right on the Rue de l’Hotel-de-Ville and 3 minutes later you reach Place du Port, facing Port de la Ville with numerous yahts and boats (you can sail from here free if you have a Swiss Rail pass). The busy tourist office next door in the Hôtel des Postes building (e.g. main post office) (Mon–Fri 9am–noon & 1.30–5.30pm, Sat 9am–noon). Below the square is a huge parking lot and free washrooms. Cross the Place du Port and you’ll find famous Musée d’Art et d’Histoire.