Manchester College clears way
toward new vision of campus
A new park-like area opens the historic heart of the Manchester College campus with demolition in winter 2010 of the 94-year-old Communications Center.
Over the years, the four-level building just north of the Administration Building has housed science laboratories, the College library, an elementary school and a high school, a museum, WBKE radio station and finally, communications studies and economics classes and faculty offices.
“The building has served Manchester College well and its time is past," said President Jo Young Switzer, who studied in the building in the ’60s and had her office there as a communication professor in the ’80s. "Our students need facilities that are accessible to everyone, energy-efficient and technologically-equipped. We are very excited about creating vibrant teaching/learning spaces across the campus.”
The College closed the building in summer 2007, moving classes and offices into accessible buildings and relocating the radio station across the mall into a remodeled suite in the Winger Building.
The decision to close the structure also brought significant energy and maintenance savings to the 1,223-student independent College, said Chris Garber, associate vice president for financial affairs, who as a student during the ’70s, attended classes in the building and worked at the radio station. The building did not have an elevator, making accessibility a challenge for students and faculty with disabilities and injured student-athletes.
Demolition began Dec. 17, after students had completed finals and the fall semester. Troy Eads Excavating Inc. of Lagro hauled away more than 100 loads of bricks and debris and hauled in more than 60 loads of dirt. Groundwork will begin on the vacant site as the ground permits or in the spring, Garber said. The 147-foot radio tower and transmitter shed will be moved at a later date.
“It’s important to recognize and honor the historical significance of the early buildings on campus,” noted Registrar Lila Hammer, a 1979 graduate and a preservationist particularly fond of early 1900s architecture. “However, there comes a time when a building is beyond the possibility for rehab and cannot meet the needs of today’s activities. I’m excited about the more open feel this part of campus now has.”
“I think it looks wonderful,” said Carl Strike, groundskeeper for more than 20 years as he surveyed the open space. “And it gives us a view of the Chapel we’ve never had before.”
The original 50’ by 70’ brick Science and Agriculture Building opened for classes in fall 1915, according to local historian, Dr. William R. Eberly, professor emeritus of biology and a 1948 graduate of the College.
The 90,000-brick structure in 1915 covered four floors, with biology, physics, chemistry, agriculture, horticulture, domestic science (cooking in the chemistry lab, household chemistry and sewing), plus an art department and museum. A greenhouse and pig pen were nearby.
The building also housed the Manchester Academy, providing pre-college training before most communities had public high schools. This fully accredited high school was replaced by Central High School in 1922.
After most of the sciences moved into the Administration Building in the early 1920s, the structure became “the Education Building.” It housed not only the Manchester Academy, but also the North Ward School, an official elementary school under the authority of the town public school system and a major training site for the College’s student teachers, noted historian Eberly.
The College remodeled the building in 1926 into a College library, with an addition on the north side for library stacks.
With remodeling again in 1964, the College created a Communications Center, with faculty offices and classrooms for English, public speaking, communications and drama, and WBKE-FM, the student radio station. Economics faculty also had classes and offices in the building.