College facilities may be at risk
- Published: May 28, 2008
The only unlocked door on the Antioch College campus these days is that of Main Building, where a small staff remains until the college officially closes on June 30. Since the Antioch University Board of Trustees on May 8 voted down the last offer from the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or ACCC, university officials have moved quickly to close up the campus, according to several sources, and many college supporters have concerns about effects on the college’s historic buildings when the university closes down its steam plant, shutting off air conditioning and heat to the aging buildings.
At Village Council’s May 19 meeting, Council requested that Village Manager Eric Swansen write a letter to Antioch University officials requesting information on when and how the university plans to power down the campus. That letter has been sent, according to Village Planner Ed Amrhein this week, although the village has not received a response. Amrhein said he will “continue to attempt to contact university officials and encourage communication.”
In an interview this week, Antioch College Interim President Andrzej Bloch stated that he did not know if a final decision has been made regarding when to shut down the steam plant, and that University Chief Financial Officer Tom Faecke and Vice President for Student Affairs and Services Milt Thompson were involved in developing plans.
Thompson did not return calls this week, and according to university spokesperson Lynda Sirk, Faecke was not available for comment.
In an interview, 20-year college employee Gary Brookins, who oversees the college’s steam plant, stated that Thompson recently said the university hopes to close down the plant, and thus shut off air conditioning and heat, by June 1, although contractual obligations may require that the plant stay open until the end of June. Organizers for the college’s alumni reunion in late June have been told that while the alumni may use some campus buildings, the steam plant will be shut down and the air conditioning will be off, according to Aimee Maruyama of Non-Stop Antioch.
According to Sirk, no decisions have been made yet regarding shutting off power, and university trustees will take up the issue when they meet next week, June 4–7, in Keene, N.H.
“It’s premature to talk of any plans at this point,” she said, stating that, “I do not have information on a shut down for the power plant.”
Concern for historic buildings
The whole Antioch College campus is considered a historic area, according to Antioch University archivist Scott Sanders, who said the college received a grant from the Getty Foundation in 2003 that labeled it as such and provided funds for planning future preservation. The original buildings were constructed in 1853.
Four of the campus buildings — Main Hall, South Hall, North Hall and the Pennell House — were constructed in the 1800s, while Weston Hall and the Curl Gymnasium were built in the 1920s. Birch Hall and the Fels building were constructed in the 1940s and McGregor Hall in the 1960s.
“I’m terribly concerned about the buildings,” Sanders said. “They are one of the most recognizable things about the college. So many amazing historical things have happened here.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Bob Loversidge, architect and president of the Columbus firm Schooley Caldwell Associates, who has done extensive renovation work for the college for the past 20 years, stated that if the university follows proper procedures to mothball the buildings, including draining the pipes, the buildings should survive, even if the heat is turned completely off. However, maintaining a low level of heat so that internal building components don’t freeze is the best alternative, he said.
“Ideally, you keep a maintenance level of heat and ventilation,” he said, but if the heat is turned off completely, “when it’s time to put the building back into service, you’ll have much more work to do.”
The lack of heat in winter will hurt buildings more than lack of air conditioning in summer, according to Loversidge, who said that mold will only take hold in summer if the buildings trap moisture inside. What hurts buildings most is water, he said, and if buildings have adequate roofs and gutters, they can survive both cold winters and hot summers as long as they remain dry. He is not aware of the condition of campus roofs, Loversidge said, but the roofs are the critical factor, no matter how old the building.
“There is nothing inherent in the fact that buildings are old that makes them more vulnerable,” he said.
However, keeping the buildings usable in the future will require that the university follow the appropriate procedure for mothballing the facilities, according to Loversidge.
“You can’t just turn things off,” he said.
Trying to save the gym
A group of villagers and college faculty and staff have been meeting since January with university administrators in an attempt to keep the college’s gymnasium open and available for village use, according to villager Richard Lapedes this week. The group includes Lapedes, architect Ted Donnell, Jane Brown, Dave Wishart, Antioch College faculty member Jill Becker and college employee Judy Kintner, who oversees the gym operations.
“It’s an obvious facility for the well-being of villagers,” Lapedes said. “We want to cooperate thoughtfully with the university in a way that is low risk and beneficial to the university, the village and potential donors.”
The group has been meeting with Faecke to discuss the possibility of the university renting the gym for $1 a year, in exchange for which the group would raise up to $3 million to make needed improvements. Interested villagers would then pay market prices to use the facility, according to Lapedes, and if the university does restart the college in the future, it would reclaim the building.
“The village gets a wellness center, and the university gets a restored facility,” he said.
As a first step, the group will place a survey in next week’s News in order to gauge villagers’ interest in the project, according to Becker.
Theater will close in fall
The Antioch Area Theater is slated to close sometime in September after the AACW Blues Fest, although the exact date is unknown, according to Louise Smith, the college’s professor of theater who oversees the building. Until that time, the YS Kids Playhouse will also use the building and the amphitheatre behind it for their productions, and the facility is also open to the community during the summer months.
Smith said she has tried to interest villagers in keeping the theater open after this summer and has not found sufficient response. While there has been interest from the Yellow Springs Center for the Arts committee in using the theater, there are daunting physical problems with the building, including roof deficiencies and bringing the structure up to code. The building is a former foundry that was renovated in 1955.
“I feel great sorrow. This is my artistic home, where I was spawned as an artist,” said Smith, who graduated from the college. “There doesn’t seem the kind of support necessary to keep it open at this point.”
The group working to keep the gymnasium open is also discussing using the south gym as a performance space, according to Smith, who said that another option would be the Village and local arts organizations taking on the building.
Ideally, according to Smith, the university would assist in those efforts, but she does not see interest from administrators in doing so.
“One solution would be for the university to live up to its moral and ethical obligations to Yellow Springs to not pull the plug on all services that have enlivened Yellow Springs and made it the community it is,” she said.
Library open, maybe
The university administration has told Olive Kettering Library head librarian Ritch Kearns that he still has a job, he said this week, but he does not know if the library will still be open to the public. The library needs to be maintained for the university to maintain its commitments to the Ohio Link consortium, he said.
“The library will be here and will be operational, but I don’t know the extent of the services,” according to Kearns, who said that Sanders, the archivist of Antiochiana, would also keep his job, but that he does not yet know the fate of other library employees.