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Marshall University’s iconic fountain nominated to National Register of Historic Places

It has stood for decades as a memorial to those lost in a devastating plane crash, provided the promise of new life to generations of students and community members and is now being considered for inclusion on the U.S. Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.  

Marshall University’s Memorial Fountain, created in memory of the 75 individuals lost in the 1970 Marshall University plane crash and officially dedicated in 1972, was nominated for the significant designation by the West Virginia State Archives and History Commission during a meeting today on Marshall’s Huntington campus. The nomination now goes to the National Park Service for review. It’s anticipated the formal decision will take approximately 45 days. 

The inclusion of the fountain on the National Register would formally acknowledge its historical and cultural importance, ensuring its preservation for future generations.  

Marshall University President Brad D. Smith attended today’s meeting.  

“The possible inclusion of the Memorial Fountain on the National Register of Historic Places reaffirms its significance as more than just a monument,” Smith said. “Adversity can lead to an excuse, or it can lead to a reason. The Memorial Fountain is a symbol of our reason, a space where we gather to remember, reflect, and find strength in our community’s resilience.” 

Smith thanked members of the commission for their effort on seeing the nomination to completion.  

“We are sincerely grateful for the commission’s commitment to this project and cannot emphasize how deeply emotional this is for many in our community and our 75 families,” Smith said.  

Sending his greetings, Gov.  Jim Justice said it is truly a blessing to see the Memorial Fountain nominated.  

“For 52 years, this fountain has not only been a source of comfort but a place of pride — a place we gather to remember and celebrate the 75 sons and daughters of Marshall, who we tragically lost,” Justice said. “This fountain is a part of who we are as a state, and at the end of the day, We Are ALL Marshall. Today is a great, great day for the University and the State of West Virginia.” 

 Being listed on the National Register is a significant honor that recognizes the historical, architectural, or archaeological significance of a site. It helps ensure the preservation of important cultural resources and can provide benefits such as eligibility for preservation grants and tax incentives. 

Randall Reid-Smith, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, said the nomination was written by Marshall two-time history graduate S. Cody Straley, who serves as the national register and architecture survey coordinator for the State Historic Preservation Office.  Straley said writing the official nomination was his small way of paying back the institution that gave him so much.

“We know why this fountain is important, but today the national government will provide federal recognition for the fountain’s importance,” Straley said. 

The Marshall fountain was designed by legendary sculptor Harry Bertoia. It is more than 13 feet high and weighs 6,500 pounds.  With its continuous flow of water and imposing structure, the fountain commands attention for all who visit. The fountain received extensive repairs in 2008 including a new granite surface for the foundation, a copper catch tray and a higher water spray like the original output when it was installed in 1972.  

Almost every county in the United States has at least one place listed on the National Register.  Marshall’s Old Main was placed on the registry in 1973. 


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