By Luke Anderson
March 30, 2016
The most distinctive structure remaining from the pre-World War II Cheyenne airport is actually not even a building. Rather, a towering Art Deco fountain, vaguely resembling a shorter, squatter, western Empire State Building stands in monolithic fashion at the entry to the airport complex. The fountain was built in 1934 to memorialize early aviation history. Although the construction was not directly related to any federal government Depression relief programs, its erection served the residents of Cheyenne as a beacon of hope towards the future by celebrating the past of an exciting industry of the age.
Historic preservation tends to follow the same ideological track. While monuments are specially built new to celebrate the past, such as the fountain did to celebrate early aviation history, preservationists understand the intrinsic historic value of all old buildings. Historic preservation hopes to create a brighter future by celebrating the elements of our shared pasts that remind us who we have been, who we are, and who we want to be. Cheyenne Historic Preservation, a Certified Local Government in Cheyenne where the fountain is located, is currently hoping to restore the fountain to its former glory.
The fountain consists of a central spire surrounded by two concentric pools of water. Underwater light fixtures shined light up through the pools of water. Another bronze framed light fixture crowns the structure. The fountain is built entirely of terra cotta bricks without a central concrete structure, manufactured by the Denver Terra Cotta Company.
Aviation thrived in Cheyenne during the decades of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, before emphasis shifted away from local airports to larger international airports. When the city of Cheyenne built the fountain with design help from state landscape architect Harold L. Curtiss, they recognized that they were thriving in the industry at that time. At the same time, they also recognized that they had a history and a heritage to thank for their successes. By building a memorial fountain, the people of Cheyenne were choosing to reach back and give a congratulatory and salutatory handshake to the people who came before them in order to simultaneously carve a new future for themselves. In the present, restoration projects such as this one being undertaken by Cheyenne Historic Preservation continues that proud tradition.
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