Center completes upgrades on the Plaza of Heroines

The four-year project of re-engraving weathered granite pavers on the Plaza of Heroines was completed by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics in August.

The plaza, located in front of Carrie Chapman Catt Hall, is a mosaic of engraved bricks and granite pavers that was dedicated in 1995 to honor Carrie Chapman Catt and other women who have made an impact on their families, communities and society. In the 21 years since the first bricks and pavers were installed, more than 3,700 women have been honored in the plaza, with additional bricks and pavers placed each year.

Within a few years after the plaza was dedicated, the surface of the pavers had begun to weather, eventually making it difficult to read the inscriptions on some of the pavers. Catt Center staff had begun looking at possible solutions to the weathered pavers when Michael (Hogan) Martin, a donor to the plaza and a materials engineering senior lecturer at Iowa State, volunteered to have several students in his Materials Engineering 413, "Senior Design," course examine the plaza as a class project.

“The students met with Julie Snyder-Yuly, then assistant director of the Catt Center, and Dayl Inglett of Ames-based Central Landscapes to learn about the engraving process and study the weathering on the pavers,” said Dianne Bystrom, center director. “They were then charged with finding a solution that was visually appealing, cost effective and long lasting.”

The students' research led to a recommendation for a different process of engraving the pavers to reduce the effects of weathering. After the new process was tested on a small selection of pavers from around the plaza and it was determined that the new engravings were not showing signs of wear after several years, the Catt Center moved forward with re-engraving all the worn pavers on the plaza.

“Each summer since 2013, a section of the pavers on the plaza was removed, re-engraved and re-installed,” said Sue Cloud, communications specialist at the center and curator of the plaza. “This summer, we're pleased to say, the final section of pavers was re-engraved and re-installed.”

In conjunction with the re-engraving project, the Catt Center launched a mail campaign in the fall of 2013 to encourage everyone who had honored a woman on the plaza with either a brick or a paver to consider providing updated information for their heroine’s profile on the plaza's website. A number of donors responded with updates, including photos.

"We were happy with the response from our mail campaign to encourage donors to update their heroines' profiles," Cloud said. "And even though that campaign is over, we still want to encourage donors to submit narratives and photos for their heroines at any time to the Catt Center's email or office address."

In May 2016, the center also unveiled a new website and online order form for the plaza. When the plaza was dedicated in 1995, this information was available only through a kiosk located in Catt Hall. After several years, the plaza's original website was created, and an online order form was added in 2013. The new website is a significant upgrade that can be accessed on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, giving evening and weekend visitors to the plaza full access to the website.