St. John’s flame takes flight
Students, faculty and staff walking the campus mall on Monday witnessed what may have seemed a surreal sight: The painstaking detachment and removal of the “Eternal Flame” sculpture that has topped the iconic fountain in front of St. John’s Church for decades.
The 700-pound steel sculpture was lifted off its base by a crane and transported to a campus warehouse for refurbishing and polishing.
The renovation of the fountain coincides with an update to St. John’s Church plaza – part of strategic improvements being undertaken over the summer to maintain Creighton’s fresh, attractive Omaha campus.
“We are carrying the same appearance and design of the Creighton Hall Plaza renovations through other areas of the mall,” says Todd Klein, project manager for construction planning and design in Facilities Management.
Confluence, the landscape architectural firm that has done much of the recent landscape work on the mall and 24th Street, also has designed the St. John’s plaza and fountain project.
“The main steps from the mall up to the church plaza were ready for an overhaul,” Klein says. “The new and improved fountain will not be sunken, the steps up to the church will be widened, and the plaza area in front of the church will be a bit bigger and have some attractive plantings, as well as some stone that matches the stone on the church.”
For safety reasons, pedestrian traffic through much of the mall has been curtailed. A temporary, ADA-accessible sidewalk on the south side of the mall is in place and will be the only access along the mall until the work is completed. Klein anticipates the mall will be open by the beginning of the fall semester.
Reinstallation of the flame sculpture is planned for August, but the fountain will not be fully functional until October because granite tile that will be used around the fountain isn’t available until then, according to Klein.
The fountain was only about 20% operational because of a variety of issues, including outdated equipment. “We didn’t even realize how weathered the sculpture had become, and how much in need of polishing it was. It is going to be very nice and bright when it is finished.”
The St. John’s fountain was completed in 1978. It originally had a flat top, with no plans for a statue or sculpture. A few years later, University leaders decided the fountain should serve as a focal point of the mall and ideas for a statue began to take shape.
Many ideas were considered until finally, in 1993, the “Eternal Flame” by Missouri sculptor Grant Kenner was placed. The sculpture was funded by a gift from John Micek, BS’50, and Anna Lou Micek, BA’75, of Omaha.