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What in the world ...? (answer) Friday, November 21, 2008

The correct answer to yesterday's "What in the world ...?" quiz is the Benson Bubbler.

These public drinking fountains are spread throughout downtown Portland. The traditional style is the four-bowl design shown at right, but some have just a single bowl.

The original bubblers were installed after Simon Benson donated $10,000 to the city for 20 fountains in 1912. The story goes that the teetotaling sawmill owner was dismayed by the smell of alcohol on the breath of his workers after lunch. They said that there was no readily-available alternative to beer, so he provided one.

There are now 52 four-bowl, and 76 single-bowl Benson Bubblers in Portland. You may or may not want to actually drink from them, but that is what they are for. I've never heard the city issue any warnings about the water quality.

You can read more about Benson here, and the bubblers here and here.