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Senior class hopes to restore waterwheel

With the beautiful scenery on Eastern’s campus, it is no wonder that many students and alumni are doing all they can to help restore it. The waterwheel is one of the current projects the senior class and Director of Alumni Relations Mary Gardner are working on.

“The waterwheel is our icon here at Eastern,” Gardner said. “I can’t imagine the campus without the waterwheel.”

The waterwheel was constructed in 1914 as part of the Walton Estate, which was owned by Charles S. Walton.

The waterwheel was popular with painters and artists and was even featured in a silent movie, “Oh! Johnny!” in 1918. Recently, the waterwheel was on the front page of The Suburban Spotlight as part of a winning entry in a photography contest.

Although the waterwheel has received numerous honors, such as being recognized in the National Registry of Historic Waterwheels, it is in desperate need of repairs. Last restored in 1972, the waterwheel has since had boards and tiles chipped off and is missing stonework.

“The wheel is in such poor shape, it needs to be completely restructured and, either way, will require a crane-like machine to move it and reinstall it,” said Carl Altomare, executive director of campus services.

For the senior class gift, it was decided that a “Save our Waterwheel Campaign” would be implemented to help raise money to fix the waterwheel.

“The waterwheel is part of the aesthetics here at Eastern and we want to do our best to help restore it,” said senior Susie Gibble, project manager with student government. “We wanted to do something original and something that would help the environment.”

The waterwheel will hook up to a generator which will have the power to produce its own electricity. That electricity will also help to power the lights dedicated to the late business professor Bob Thomas.

But fixing the waterwheel will not be an easy task. The wheel itself will cost $23,000 and the generator will cost $10,000 to $12,000. Despite the expense, those involved are very hopeful that they can get the project done.

“If everybody gives a little bit, we can do it,” Gardner said.

The goal is to have the waterwheel restored by its 100th birthday in 2014.

“We want it to be restored by its birthday so we can have a ceremony for it and hopefully bring some media here as well,” Gardner said.

As of now, the senior class is in the planning and organizing stage but all are encouraged to donate to the waterwheel restoration project.

Donors who give $50 or more will receive a magnet with a picture of the waterwheel on it. Those who donate $100 or more will get their name enscribed on a plaque near the waterwheel.

“We must save our waterwheel because that is what links us to our legacy here on the campus,” Gardner said.

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