The fountain was dedicated in May 2012 to honor Whitehead, who reportedly flew an early airplane in 1901 not far from the fountain’s location at the intersection of Fairfield Avenue and State Street Extension.
The memorial features a replica of Whitehead’s No. 21 flyer above a granite base and four fountains. The fountain’s base proudly proclaims Whitehead to be “First in Flight,” and the plane shifts and its propellers rotate in the wind.
According to articles in the Bridgeport Herald and Scientific American, Whitehead successfully flew in Fairfield, Bridgeport and Stratford in 1901, two years before the Wright Brothers flight in North Carolina.
Whitehead supporters cite poor record keeping, a lack of photographic evidence, and an agreement between the Wright Brothers’ descendants and the Smithsonian Institution regarding the display of the Wright Flyer at the National Air and Space Museums as reasons Whitehead’s earlier flights aren’t recognized or investigated by aviation historians.
The fountain was designed by Theodore L. Grabarz, Bridgeport’s deputy director of public works and the designer of the city’s 2009 World War II monument, and the Whitehead plane was designed by Fairfield sculptor Ron Cavalier.