Hebe is a sculpture and fountain on the north side of High Street, east of North Third Street, in Hamilton. It is one of the most visible sculptures in the City of Sculpture. The fountain is topped by a statue of Hebe (pronounced HEE bee), a goddess in Greek mythology who was the daughter of Zeus and Hera.
It is a replica of a fountain and statue in Copenhagen, Denmark, designed by a Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen (1774-1844). He also created a statue of Hebe which is in The Louvre in Paris, France. When installed in 1890, the Hamilton fountain provided drinking water for both people and animals. After 38 years, it was removed and discarded in 1928 to make way for construction of the new First National Bank building. For the next 47 years, it stood in the yard of a private residence on Haldimand Avenue on Hamilton's West Side. It was acquired by the bank in 1975 in preparation for observance of the United States Bicentennial. After restoration work at the Hamilton Foundry, it was reinstalled in 1976 on High Street in front of the bank.
Hebe's role in Greek mythology has been described in various ways, including the nymph of streams and brooks, the goddess of beauty and the goddess of youth. In the latter role, she had the power to make old people young again. Hercules married her after he was made god. Hebe ended the long quarrel between Hercules and his stepmother Hera. Hebe also is mentioned in Homer's The Iliad, Book IV. "The gods," Homer wrote, "sat down for a conference with Zeus in the Hall of the Golden Floor. The lady Hebe, acting as their cupbearer, served them with nectar and they drank each other's health from tankards of gold as they looked at the city of Troy." According to other sources, Hebe -- an attendant to Venus -- was the goddess of beauty.
Thorvaldsen (or Thorwaldsen) was born in Copenhagen, and educated there at the Royal Academy. In 1797 he went to Italy to study classical sculpture. He lived in Rome until 1844, becoming a leading figure in the classical revival. His most famous works are allegorical reliefs and statues of classical subjects, such as Cupid and Psyche (1807, Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen). He sculpted the Tomb of Pius VII (1824-31, Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome) and the celebrated outdoor Lion of Lucerne (1819-21, Lucerne, Switzerland). His return from Rome in 1838, when he eventually decided to settle in Copenhagen, was regarded as a national event in Danish history. A large portion of his fortune went to the endowment of a Neoclassical museum in Copenhagen (begun in 1839), designed to house his collection of works of art, the models for all his sculptures; by his own wish, Thorvaldsen was to be buried there. See City of Sculpture.