Faculty Reflect on Time Spent in Now-Demolished Admin Building

Heather Gierke

Faculty have fond memories of the now-demolished Administration Building.

From the first look, it felt like home. “My interview didn’t feel like an interview,” said Dr. Beate Gilliar, English, “It felt like they were welcoming me back.”

During the tour at the beginning of his time at Manchester, Dr. Jonathan Watson, English, was shown his new corner office on the second floor of the Ad Building, which sported a “gorgeous” view of College Avenue and a large quantity of bookshelves, which he quickly filled.

“I loved the view tremendously,” Watson said. “You could look out over the student housings along College Ave. and really feel like a part of college life. Students would sit around outside and talk or play music and occasionally they would have guitars. There was just so much joy both in college life, and in the building itself.”

What would he go back in time and take? Watson said he would take the window above the door to his office. “When I was first shown my office, the door was locked, so I pulled up a chair and looked through the transom,” he said. “It felt like I could see the hundred years worth of grandeur the building had collected.”

The Ad Building was full of fun quirks and interesting oddities, which helped give the historic building a sense of character. From the long stairs grooved by hundreds of feet to the bell tower to the clunky heater in the basement, the Ad Building had eccentricities from tip to toe.

The east stairs in particular held a deep sense of “awe” to Gilliar, who has taught at Manchester since 1993. “I had to climb those stairs to get to my interview,” Gilliar said, “and on my way up I could just feel the deep sense that there have been people here, real students and faculty who have climbed these stairs over and over since 1889.”

She also had a fondness for the picturesque seven-foot windows, the old oaken wood floors and clean chalkboards. “If I could go back in time and take one thing,” Gilliar said, “I would take pieces of the intricate molding on the top of the windows. I am very glad the professors were able to take the beautiful, handmade oak bookshelves.”

When faculty moved out of the Ad Building and into the current Academic Center, many of them took their bookcases with them. They made a whole day of the bookshelf removal, as the shelves are extremely tall, thick and heavy. The shelves were moved by hand and truck from the old Ad Building to each office.

“Our new offices came equipped with metal shelves,” said Dr. Katharine Ings, English, “but we wanted to continue to put the hand-made wooden bookcases to good use.” And indeed they line the walls of many ACEN offices, stretching to the ceiling. “They add a sturdy beauty and a welcoming historical presence,” Ings added.

Walking the halls in the Ad building felt like running one’s hands through the “grooves” of history. The materials used in construction were authentically local from 1889, and the years after only served to further the building’s sense of heritage. “You were sitting where people sat generations before you were born,” Watson said. “When you walked into the building it was like you were walking into tradition.”

The Ad Building saw many people through different stages of their life. “The building saw me at my worst,” Gilliar said, “but it also helped shape me into my best. This was my first full-time academic position. This is where my academic career started.”

Over the course of 10 years, Watson and Ings brought their three infants and toddlers to their offices, where the children would often play with students while their parents taught class. “Many faculty brought their babies to work,” Ings said. “Former president Parker Marden used to joke about strollers being double parked in the back.”

The overall reactions to the Ad Building being demolished depends on the graduation status of the person you ask. Many currently enrolled students had never seen the inside of the Ad Building. To them it was just a building they weren’t allowed into.

To alumni and faculty, the building was their college experience in one spot. “I regret that it came down but I marvel at how long it lasted,” Gilliar said. “When I walk past I can still see it there. It hurts me to see the space empty.”

Although many would have liked to see the building preserved, but the University calculated that costs were too high to take on. The building had major structural problems, a large mold problem, and quite a few non-human inhabitants such as mice, bats and squirrels.