This fall, the oldest building on campus will crumble to the ground. Founders Hall won’t fall down by itself, but according to college architect Jim Farrington, it’s in bad shape. Meanwhile, renovations are ongoing in Joyce Hall and will begin in Klein Hall, accommodating those who will have to move out of Founders.
“If we don’t get out of it, we’re going to have to start putting a lot of money just to keep it as is, which is money we don’t want to invest into a building that doesn’t have a future here,” Farrington said.
Structural problems are behind the decision. In 2009, Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc. conducted a survey on the building, reporting, “The brick veneer of the building has become a maintenance problem; significant sections have become detached from the building, and large sections were never provided with adequate foundations.”
Back to the Beginning
Before the college was founded, a farmhouse stood on the land, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Michael F. Kelly. When the Kelly family sold the property, what is now known as Founders Hall was added to the farmhouse. Construction began on May 1, 1904, and the structure was enlarged again in 1907 when upgrades such as a brick siding and a porch were added. The cupola, immortalized in the college’s logo, was installed in 1907 and replaced in 1914.
Founders, which was first known as Old Hall, was the entire college in its early days when 34 students were first enrolled. All housing, classes, and even the chapel were located within the building. By the time the building was renamed to Founders Hall in 1962, administration took up the first floor, while students lived in the upper three floors.
Renovations have already begun on the first floor of Joyce. A new door facing Alliot Hall will be installed to allow easier access to the building. Certain walls have been taken out, the floor will be repainted, and there will be new floors, ceilings, and doors. Joyce’s proximity to Dion and Alliot along with less need for traditional housing made Joyce a perfect location for the move. While there is no plan to fill the upper three floors of Joyce, they will be available if needed for additional student housing. Financial Aid, Military Community Services, and faculty offices will be moved into Joyce once the renovations are complete, which should occur around commencement.
Matthew DeSorgher, Director of Student Financial Services, said he is excited for Financial Aid’s new space in Joyce. In Founders Annex, four staff members are in a suite while two others are outside of the area. Their new space in Joyce will allow all offices to be in closer proximity.
“We’re very team oriented here, and the fact that we’re kind of disconnected is logistically challenging, and I think for that reason we’re pretty excited about the upcoming move,” DeSorgher said.
Once the renovations to Joyce are complete, Klein Hall will undergo a small renovation to accommodate the president, the vice president of academic affairs, the dean, and the associate dean.
“It’s always sad to see an old building being demolished, but, given the condition of Founders, it was the right decision,” said President Lorraine Sterritt, adding that she is excited about the move.
The president’s office will be complete by August 1, ending the administration reshuffle.
Trimming the costs
While quotes are still being received, Farrington estimates that the cost of the Joyce and Klein renovations will be one-half to two-thirds of the original $1.5 million budget.
According to Farrington, The State Department of Historic Preservation was against the removal upon an initial walkthrough but gave approval once they were aware of the building’s condition.
“Once they understood the condition of the building, and how much it would take to renovate it into a building that could stay, but still would not meet the needs of what we would want moving forward, most people are understanding of it,” Farrington said.
Farrington noted that an asbestos survey and an abatement project will be done on Founders to make sure any ACM’s (Asbestos Containing Materials), are removed, handled, and disposed of properly. A survey on Joyce revealed no ACM’s that would be disturbed in the renovation process.
The cupola will be saved, according to Joel Ribout, associate manager of facilities and project manager for the renovations. Currently, he visits Joyce often to check in on the renovations and to answer questions. Ribout said he thinks it’s a shame that Founders is coming down, but at this point, it’s the only option.
“In a perfect world you keep it, but it’s not a perfect world because some things are just beyond repair, and that’s what’s happened over there,” said Ribout.
As of now, there is no plan to provide storage to students during summer months once Founders is gone. According to Farrington, this was a non-guaranteed service that was available due to the open space.
A sentimental journey
From a sentimental standpoint, it’s hard to judge the value of Founders Hall over the past 115 years.
“It used to be a place that every student walked into all the time,” said Elizabeth Scott, the college archivist.
“Its use has shifted so it’s not so central to the day-to-day life for students. It’s hard to know the impact of a symbolic change.”
Scott noted that that building is very well documented; the archives hold original documents regarding the building and photos dating back to before its construction.