By Kelly Champlain
“Founders has outlived its useful life,” said James Farrington, the director of facilities and college’s architect. He spoke in regard to the recent rumors that Founders Hall will be torn down. The decision to demolish the building, which was built in the late 1800s and is the oldest building on campus, has not been finalized. If the decision is approved, Founders Hall will be torn down in the next two years.
There were many reasons behind the decision Farrington said. “We did a study of the building and while it is not going to fall down, it is in rough shape and is not really built well enough to even make a renovation feasible.” The administration along with facilities met with the Vermont Department of Historic Preservation for approval which they were granted. “These reasons are why we have not housed students in Founders for many years now,” Farrington said. “Founders Hall, if it was to remain standing without any major renovation would need almost $2 million worth of work just to keep using it in its current state.”
“The Historic Commission and various safety officials agreed the building had to be removed as necessary repairs were largely not feasible and very expensive,” President John Neuhauser said.
However, he added, tearing down Founders will still have major financial impacts on the college. This comes at an especially hard time given the recent budget cuts that have been put into effect.
“Regrettably, we have no choice and this is much less expensive,” Neuhauser said. According to Farrington, the demolition of the hall will cost between $200,000 and $300,000 dollars.
Currently, Founders is home to the offices of the registrar, president’s cabinet, vice president of academic affairs, dean of the college and other administrative offices.
Founders Hall has been used as office space for many faculty members for many years. Neuhauser and Farrington have confirmed these offices will be relocated and there are no current plans to build a new building to house them.This also means summer storage for students which is on the second, third, and fourth floors of the hall will no longer be available once the demolition occurs. However, Neuhauser said they are considering other options for storage. “I do not believe this will have any effect on current or future students except for losing the storage. Other options will be explored,” Neuhauser said.
Some students voiced concerns the demolition would impact parking on campus, which has been a divisive situation for a few years now. Neuhauser assured this project will have no negative impact on parking for students.
“I wish we could have found a way to restore this iconic building so important to many alums,” Neuhauser said.
Founders Hall has been standing for quite some time, “Founders started as a two-story farmhouse which was built in about 1860. Then the Edmundites bought the land in 1902, founded the college in 1904, and soon after started building what is now Founders,” Farrington said. “It was built in a couple parts, and then brick was added. In 1907, Founders Hall was in a form that is close to today’s form.”
Despite the building’s historic and sentimental value to the college, it may be torn down. “We have Vermont Department of Historic Preservation approval to take Founders down. They do not want to see this building down, however when they saw the report of the current conditions of the building they gave us approval. If there was any feasible way to save Founders they would not have granted us permission,” Farrington said.