Restoring a Masterpiece

Returning students might have noticed something different about the waterwheel as they moved back to campus. In fact, the whole wheel is new, built from scratch by Danny Caprioli of Caprioli Masonry in Paoli, Pa.

Caprioli and his crew came in July to take down the old wheel, and the new one was fully installed by August 21.

It is made of Louisiana cypress that had sunk approximately 100 years ago and has been preserved ever since. This is the same material the original wheel was made of in 1912.

The wheel has been restored once before in 1972, by Dan Caprioli Sr., Danny Caprioli’s father. Caprioli Jr. was seventeen at the time, helping his father install the wheel. Now it seems history has returned full circle.

Part of the “Save Our Waterwheel” campaign, the waterwheel restoration began with the Class of 2009’s gift of a generator to the wheel.

According to Mary Gardner, Director of Alumni Relations, and Laura Manger, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, the generator is to be used to gather power to activate the accent lighting that was added in 2007 in memory of professor Robert Thomas ’73.

However, the generator could not be placed inside the wheel because it was in disrepair and couldn’t support the generator, so the 2009 senior class gift was put to restoring the wheel. The Class of 2010’s senior gift was brought in to help with the restoration, along with donations made by alumni, faculty and staff.

The rest is history – but what makes the waterwheel so important to warrant a brand new wheel?

“The wheel is the perfect landmark icon to represent all the schools of Eastern since 1952,” Gardner said. “It’s also the most photographed waterwheel in the country.”

“Alumni remember the wheel,” Manger said. “It’s on puzzles, in frames. We get photos of alumni in front of it all the time.”

Gardner and Manger hope that the full restoration of the waterwheel, including generator, wheel, the stone work on the pump house and the terra-cotta shingles on the roof, will be completed by 2012, just in time for the waterwheel’s 100 year anniversary.

“We’d love to celebrate its birthday during Homecoming,” Gardner said.

Donations are still being accepted by the Alumni Office. Any amount of money will be accepted, but those who donate between 50 and 99 dollars will receive a magnet of the old waterwheel, and those who donate over 100 dollars will have their name engraved on a plaque that will be near the waterwheel.

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