Of all the changes to the DePauw landscape over the summer, the fountains in Stewart Plaza may be the most recognizable and aesthetically pleasing.
Many fountains have occupied the DePauw campus over the years. According to Warren Whitesell, project manager for the facilities department, the fountains were born out of the nostalgic wishes of alumni and other contributors. “There was a desire by some of the alumni and the benefactors that sponsored [the project] to kind of bring water back to campus in a meaningful way,” Whitesell said. “There was a thought that there is a sense of tranquility, there is a sense of ambiance and environment that they tend to create.”
However, the past fountains were not in prominent places, said Whitesell. So by putting the new fountains at the center of campus in Stewart Plaza, the University “made them prominent, made them something that you’re not going to stumble onto; you’re going to be there intentionally,” Whitesell said.
James G. Stewart, ‘64, former executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Cigna, a global health insurance company, donated $5 million to The Campaign for DePauw for the construction of the Stewart Plaza.
The optimal location between Hoover Hall and the Union Building was chosen to draw in students and community members to enjoy the fountains and the scenery of the campus. “It is bringing people together,” Whitesell said. “It makes a very attractive space in nice weather conditions for people to just gather on their own without having a specific reason to be there, just enjoying the outdoors or enjoying that tranquility.”
Students and community members alike have relaxed and played by the fountain in the weeks after its completion. Greencastle residents bring their children to the fountain, and students settle at the surrounding tables and chairs to enjoy their lunch or coffee. “They’re enjoying the scenery, watching the student body,” Whitesell said. “There’s been lots of community members that have come, particularly in the evening.”
He sees the space as being used for many meetings and tablings in the future, especially in fair weather conditions. “It makes a really nice place for people to gather,” said Whitesell. “That’s one of the purposes is just to have a place to invite people to come and gather at a desirable location.”
Due to all of the underground work involved in repurposing Stewart Plaza and tearing down the former Hub dining area, the fountains cost nearly half a million dollars. In total, the plaza was about $3 million, according to Whitesell.
New first-years are excited for the meeting spot that the fountains provide. After the international student gathering Tuesday night, students splashed in the water and posed for pictures. “I think they’re very pretty, especially at nighttime when the lights are on,” first-year Sophie van Genderen said.
Thus far, the fountains have been respectfully used on campus. Whitesell and the University hope that the plaza will continue to be respected and not abused by student shenanigans. Over the summer there were several incidents of people in the area skateboarding on an around Stewart Plaza. One incident reported to DePauw Public Safety cited juveniles swimming in the fountains.