The fountain was commissioned by Lotta Crabtree as a gift to the city of San Francisco. It was dedicated on September 9, 1875.
The cast iron fountain served as a meeting point during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and resulting fires, which is commemorated by a metal panel attached to the monument. Another panel, installed in 1911, mentions legendary opera soprano Luisa Tetrazzini, who sang for the people of San Francisco at the fountain on Christmas Eve, 1910. The bronze column was added in 1916 to equal the height of new lights being installed along Market Street.
Commemorations of the earthquake, including a dwindling pool of survivors, are held every year at 5:12 a.m. on April 18 at the intersection. It was relocated from its original location at 3rd, Market and Kearny in 1974 during the renovation of Market Street.
In 1999, the fountain, which had suffered neglect in the past decades, was totally refurbished to its 1875 appearance. It is painted with a metallic gold-brown paint. The lion's head-motif fountain stations located on the sides of the column flow during daytime hours.