The College of Wooster recently had a “beam signing” for Wooster students, faculty, staff, and trustees as part of the construction process for the new athletic facility on campus, known as the Scot Center (Click here for a short video of the event). The purpose was to give many the chance to “leave their mark” as the new Scot Center is for every student, every day. The beam will now be placed prominently near the entrance of the building when completed.
Your probably wondering by now how this relates to historic preservation, and of course my blog. Well, during the event, President Cornwell said a few remarks concerning the beam and what it mean for the campus community. He used the phrase, “Rise like a phoenix,” to describe the beam’s path as it moved towards the patio where the event was being held.
This isn’t the first time that the phrase “like a phoenix” has be used to describe building construction at the College of Wooster. The first time the phoenix was mentioned at the college was 110 years ago after the fire of Old Main, the principle academic building at the time, which resulted in the building being a total loss. For a while, it seemed as if all hope was lost, and that the University of Wooster (as it was known at the time) was destine to fail. However, that was not to be, as Wooster embarked on a massive fund-raising campaign, enlisting the help of Andrew Carnegie to build five new buildings on campus. Four of the five are still around today: Kauke, Scovel, Severance Chemistry, and Taylor (the fifth, a power plant, once stood near where Kenarden Lodge is today). Local newspaper coverage of the tragedy and subsequent building project summed it up best: “Tested by fire, Wooster’s phoenix rose again.”
The question is did President Cornwell realize what he was hearkening back to in his speech during the beam signing? Was he paying homage to a previous building campaign, in light of the fact that Wooster, a 1o0 years later, has embarked on another great building campaign? Bornhuetter Hall, Gault Manor, the Kauke renovation, and now the Scot Center have changed the way the campus looks dramatically. Although a fire didn’t spark (pun intended) this building campaign, might it still be apt to say, with the major transformations the college has experienced in the past decade, that Wooster’s Phoenix has risen once again?