For most of the last century, Wright Fountain stood as a campus icon. Now, two years after underground utilities failures forced the old fountain’s removal, the new Trustees Fountain at Wright Circle has risen to take its place.
The names of all current and former ECU trustees are engraved on a granite wall near the Trustees Fountain at Wright Circle
For more than 70 years, Wright Fountain was the focal point of campus. Originally built as part of ECU’s campus beautification project, it was first dedicated in 1932 in honor of Robert H. Wright, ECU’s first president, and again in 1951 in recognition of M. L. Wright, chair of the original Campus Beautification Committee who oversaw its construction.
By late 2006, problems underground had completely compromised the fountain’s foundation. In January of 2007, Wright Fountain was torn down.
“The utilities failure was causing sink holes to occur around the fountain, as well as causing the fountain to settle to the point that it could no longer operate and maintain water levels,” said William Bagnell, executive director of ECU facilities services.
The new fountain is actually the culmination of a larger utilities improvement plan approved in 2006 that also included storm sewer replacement and repair, sanitary sewer relocation, steam tunnel drainage, and a rework of the area under the old fountain. At that time, the Board of Trustees voted to raise money from current and former trustees to help fund the project. Last May, ECU officials announced that construction of the new fountain would begin in the fall of 2008.
The Trustees Fountain at Wright Circle shares the same ground that once held Wright Fountain, and has already become a highlight of Main Campus. Designed by Davis Kane Architects of Raleigh, North Carolina, and built by R. N. Rouse & Co. of Goldsboro, the new fountain is larger and generally more impressive than its previous incarnation. It is 37 feet in diameter at its base, and is powered by a 20 horsepower pump that can move 2,000 gallons of water per minute. Its three-inch fountainhead is capable of producing a spectacular 18- foot plume of water.
The fountain is also smarter and more efficient. An anemometer measures the speed of the wind and shortens the plume as the wind increases, preventing water loss. And whereas the old fountain ran continuously, the new fountain is programmed to only run from 7 a.m. to midnight to conserve electricity.
The Trustees Fountain also retains some historical significance as well. A black granite wall near the fountain is inscribed with the name of every trustee that has ever served East Carolina since 1907.
M. L. Wright would undoubtedly approve of the new fountain and the continued efforts to beautify campus. He established a tradition of beauty at ECU, and as the university continues to grow, it is clear that Wright’s impact is still felt today.