Antioch College

College staff in South Hall; work on buildings progresses

If in the past two years there had been urgency around what to do about Antioch College’s physical plant, this year, the attitude of college leaders has resolved into a tempered and reasoned approach to the historic campus. The college took critical steps this fall to protect its buildings from further deterioration, after they were shuttered for a year. And this month, the college administrative staff of about 20 will emerge from their spots in the Olive Kettering Library and the leased space on Xenia Avenue to take up temporary residence in South Hall on the horseshoe at the heart of the campus.

The rededication of South Hall will take place on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m., with presentations by Antioch College Archivist Scott Sanders and alumnus John Feinberg, an architectural conservator and the college’s building systems coordinator. Both have worked with the college this fall to assess the historic nature of its buildings and will report on current and future renovation plans to preserve the college campus.

Since Antioch College gained its independence from Antioch University last summer, the college raised $15 million to begin operations, including a start on renovating the campus facilities. While buildings such as the Antioch theater and the student union had previously been considered for demolition, college leaders prefer to evaluate the campus from the perspective of historic preservation and energy efficiency, Antioch College Interim President Matthew Derr said on Monday. Using this more methodical approach, none of the campus structures need to be demolished, at least not right away, he said. And in terms of the embodied energy that an already standing building represents, “the most energy-efficient building is the one that already exists,” Feinberg states in a video tour of the campus that can be found at antiochcollege.org/media.

This fall the college focused on assessing the buildings on the horseshoe: the three original college buildings, Main Building (or Antioch Hall), North Hall and South Hall; plus McGregor Hall and Spalt, which were built mid-20th century. In addition to repairs, the college is considering installing energy-efficient windows and geothermal heating and cooling systems for those buildings, which comes with a high initial cost but saves operating costs later, according to Feinberg.

“The most important work was to protect the buildings for the short- and the long-term,” Derr said. “We’ve worked on almost every building on campus to protect them so that when the renovation starts in earnest, they’re all in good, safe condition.”

Main Building received new copper lining on the roof and new gutter and downspout systems to enclose the shell and keep water from infiltrating. The change was consistent with the historic nature of the buildings, Derr said.

Another primary goal was to renovate South Hall in time for the move-in date next week. South Hall got gas lines and a temporary gas boiler.

“Those buildings are in much better condition today than they were in September,” Derr said.

The college also worked on some buildings outside the horseshoe that needed immediate attention. The roofs of West Hall, Curl Gym, Birch Hall and the Fels Building were repaired, and heat is on in West Hall and Pennell House. The Corretta Scott King Center, Fels Hall, the library and Units dorm all had work done to them, Derr said.

None of the buildings’ interior work has been done, but the protection of the outside ensures that the interior damage won’t get any worse before the college has a chance to fix it.

The overall assessment of the campus, according to Derr, is that the deterioration of campus buildings has been exaggerated and that the renovation is quite manageable.

“There’s a lot of investment that needs to be done, but it seems less daunting now,” he said.

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