CSU fountain a piece of 1965 World’s Trade Fair

Minnesota State University, Mankato is home to many interesting sculptures and landmarks, all with unique backgrounds and origins. Some have been donated, some built in honor of events or people, and some created by previous students and staff.

Of the 13 total landmarks that are spread across campus, a few stand out among crowd. The clock tower, for one, comes to mind. Located in the arboretum between Trafton Science Center East and Ford Hall, the Ostander Student Memorial Bell Tower stands at about 80 feet tall. Curiously enough, despite the namesake, there are no bells in the tower. Instead, the chimes that can be heard every quarter hour are created from a carillon.

Another sculpture that is passed by often that has a unique background is the steel sculpture, which is also located by Trafton East. The eight foot high structure—which is a bunch of steel beams crisscrossing each other in various ways and painted mostly orange—has 50 different connections. It was built for educational purposes rather than aesthetically pleasing ones. The design is meant to help civil engineer students study the typical connections—welds, rivets, etc.—as part of their studies in steel design. The structure is also meant to be a way for others to better recognize how a civil engineer affects society.

The most memorable campus landmark, however, is easily the fountain. Located between the Centennial Student Union and Memorial Library, it is a structure that most students pass on a daily basis. In the warmer months, it is a popular place to hang out and chill in between classes.

The original structure of the fountain was part of the New York World’s Trade Fair in 1965. According to the “Campus Landmarks and Public Art Walking Tour” pamphlet, “The idea behind the design was to create a spiral fountain effect with stationary water jets.” In an article that was published in the Mankato Free Press in 2007, it says that the fountain was constructed with wind sensors on it, so that when the wind blew, the waters would dance. With as gusty as the wind in Mankato can get, this kind of structure was a perfect addition for the university.

When the fountain was brought to campus, the design differed in one small detail. At the world’s fair, the structure was suspended above the ground so people saw only the water shooting into the air and none of the plumbing that made the effect possible. Once moved to Mankato, though, the motor and pipes were plainly visible to people walking by, slightly ruining the intended effect.

To fix this, the sculpture that is now in the fountain was added in 1975, in order to conceal at least the motor. It was created by a former Art Department faculty member.

The fountain underwent some major renovations in 2013 in order to repair and improve the original structure.

New piping, concrete, and an irrigation system were put into place in order to fix an infrastructure problem that was causing water to leak into the surrounding grounds, according to a Media Relations Announcement the university published to in April 2013.

These iconic landmarks that have become familiar features to our campus have the benefit of not only adding to the beauty of our campus, but also the uniqueness. As you pass certain structures, keep in mind the stories and history that each piece has and what they bring to our campus.

Alissa Thielges

Alissa is a sophomore majoring in mass media at MSU. When she doesn't have her nose stuck in a book, she enjoys eating pie and fangirling over various fictional characters. You can get in touch with her at her email

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