Reviewing this list of accomplishments, one begins to understand how the town felt the loss at his death in February, 1910. "All Grinnell Mourns the Loss of a Good Citizen" read the headline of the Grinnell Herald. Calling Clark one of the "builders of Grinnell," the newspaper reported that for his funeral "factory wheels ceased to turn, business houses closed their doors and a whole city paid homage to the man who has exemplified...the possibilities of a life of service."
|Grinnell Herald, 18 March 1910, p. 1|
Soon after Clark's death a movement to commemorate him took shape. By mid-March a group of local worthies had collected enough guarantees to begin planning what sort of memorial it should be and where it should be located. Subscription lists were placed in all the town's banks and citizens were invited to sign up and contribute. The newspaper reported that among the planners there was "a general feeling that the people of Grinnell will be unwilling to let the opportunity to contribute to this memorial slip past."
Meantime the committee responsible for the design and location of the memorial was hard at work. A newspaper article in mid-August reported that the Chicago architect, Walter Burley Griffin, had visited Grinnell to inspect sites, and had recommended that the fountain—an idea that was broached almost immediately after Clark's death—should be located at "the northwest corner of [Central] park"—in other words, almost exactly where the Veterans Memorial Building now stands.
Griffin had promised plans for the memorial within two weeks, but whether he met that goal or not is unclear. Still in late October the Grinnell Herald expressed hope that the fountain would be installed by November 10. The newspaper reported that the memorial would be "7 feet, eight inches in height, handsomely finished and in position and general appearance will be in every way a worthy memorial." However, another newspaper article from the following June announced that only then was the fountain nearing completion, the total cost of installation having exceeded $900. "Three tons of cement and fifteen loads of torpedo sand and limestone entered into the construction of the fountain," the newspaper continued.
|Plans for the Clark Fountain published by Griffin in 1913 article in Western Architect|
|Walter Burley Griffin, E. W. Clark Memorial Fountain, National Library of Australia, Eric Milton Nicholls Collection|
For the next twenty years the fountain, upon which was fixed a tablet remembering E. W. Clark, provoked little comment. But in March, 1931 the newspaper announced that the fountain was to be moved to a new location in the center of the park. According to the article, "faulty plumbing" demanded some remedy; besides, reasoned the park board committee, at the new location the fountain would be "more accessible." The move was also part of a plan to reorganize Central Park: the north half would be devoted to recreation (and at the disposal of the nearby high school), whereas the south half was intended for "ornamental purposes." For its part, the fountain was to be raised higher than it had been earlier, and cement walks were to surround it, "so that it may be approached from all sides."
|Grinnell Herald-Register, 24 June 1954|
What happened to the tons of cement that made up the fountain? No one seems to know, and apparently no one at the time cared enough to record the fountain's destiny. No doubt memory of the man the fountain intended to honor had faded—who today in Grinnell knows the life of service the fountain memorialized? But with its passing the city lost a tangible connection to a man who loomed large in the history and consciousness of early Grinnell.