This summer Huntington University took on a demolition project, choosing to tear down one of its long-standing buildings, the Administration Annex. Good riddance, or will some people miss it? Do freshman even know it’s gone? Where did the offices from the building move to? What, if anything, will be put on that part of the lawn?
By Kelsey Priestley, Contributor
[Music enters at full volume: “Fallin’” by Sunrise Blvd for approximately 5 seconds]
RYAN WALKER: Huntington University students, faculty and staff have been watching changes take place on campus as different buildings undergo construction projects. Last year, the HUB was completely remodeled, and the Roush House was demolished. Coming back for the fall semester, some people noticed another big change on campus. The long-standing Annex building had been torn down. [Music Fades Out] Kelsey Priestley has the story.
KELSEY PRIESTLEY: The Annex building has housed many things over the years such as the university library, president’s office, university relations, advancement, ministry offices, classrooms and more. While it has served many purposes over the years, the decision to tear down the building did not come as a surprise to some.
KAY SCHWOB: Before I came in ’96, it was on the master plan that that building would come down. And I remember in July of ’96 is when I started, and I remember being told, “Don’t get too used to this building ’cause it’s coming down.” It literally came down 25 years later. Okay, ’cause, that was in ’96—July of ’96. It came down in July of 2021. So 25 years later, it finally came down.
PRIESTLEY: That was Kay Schwob, HU senior director of development in advancement. While this project had been written in the master plan, some are still left with the big question: why tear it down? HU’s Chief Operations Officer Dr. Russ Degitz sheds some light into the decision making process.
RUSS DEGITZ: Unfortunately, back when buildings like that were built there was no consideration for compliance issues for people that might have disabilities or mobility challenges. So immediately when you walked in you had to either go upstairs or downstairs. There was no main ground level and, because of its age, there was no elevator. And so, you know, as our president used to have her office in there and tried to meet with alumni or other groups, it just became clear that it wasn’t a building that served the needs of our current Forester family.
PRIESTLEY: Trying to be the best stewards of their dollars, the university explored what it would take to renovate the Annex versus tear it down. It became clear that they were not going to be able to responsibly renovate it in a way that fit the needs of the university, and the needs of the people that are here. Schwob experienced the inaccessibility of the Annex first-hand.
SCHWOB: I hurt my leg and I was on crutches back in 2018. And I had to climb stairs. And I had to climb stairs to get to my office. And I had to climb downstairs to go to the restroom. Not easy to get to. I mean it was just very very difficult.
PRIESTLEY: With the Annex coming down, Schwob, along with the rest of her coworkers in the advancement office were required to move into new spaces.
DEGITZ: So there was a lot of collaboration on that. We wanted to make sure that people didn’t feel like they were being displaced in a negative way. We’ve really tried to create a sense that people that were moving out of there were really moving more towards something instead of away from something.
PRIESTLEY: Having housed the president’s office, ministry and missions offices, classrooms, advancement, and university relations, all departments were placed into new spaces over the past few years. Lynette Fager, director of communications, explains what some of the thought process was in the relocation of offices.
LYNETTE FAGER: The offices that were in the Annex didn’t necessarily relate to one another, per se, but they all have to live somewhere and what’s the best location for them? Well, ministry missions, for example, that’s one that needs to be in an academic building and needs to be in a place where it can feed off of the other academic programs: faculty members, classrooms, etc, that are in that space. When it comes down to it, it made more sense for Loew-Brenn and also was the space that had space in it for that area to grow. When it came a question of the president’s office, well, why not put the president’s office in the oldest, most historic building on campus? Easy access to parking, a space that can be renovated to be more impressive. So that was another easy question there.
PRIESTLEY: Fager and her team of university relations were moved to Lower Livingston. Being an office that works with nearly every department on campus, this has given them the opportunity to not only keep the strong relationships they had with those in the Annex over the years, but to also grow with other offices located in the Livingston building, such as the center for spiritual formation and intercultural enrichment and the multiple student groups. With the main purpose of advancement being to build relationships with the community, people, and alumni, the decision was made to move those offices into the National United Brethren Headquarters.
SCHWOB: I really think being in this space with the UB headquarters—
PRIESTLEY: That’s Kay Schwob again.
SCHWOB: —I just feel like there’s more opportunity for us to talk with pastors, and UB, and Global, when they come back to campus so that we can just continue those conversations. And it’s been neat to be able to develop that relationship with our denomination that—yes I knew these people, but now I feel like we’re getting to know them much much better.
PRIESTLEY: Downsizing, in preparation for Advancement’s big move, started in December of last year. Over the years, the Annex had accumulated a lot of materials, which required the staff to reorganize and determine what needed to be kept and what could go. The process of moving things from one building to the other began after commencement weekend when students had left the campus.
SCHWOB: Actually the moving process was phenomenal. It actually went very very well. We have an amazing maintenance staff, and we had things marked. And we also have a great team in our Advancement Office and so many of the people that work in here are very organized, so we had stickers on everything that said this goes here, this goes here, this goes here, and the maintenance team—they were Johnny on the spot. They came when they were supposed to get here, and they moved everything in an amazingly quick fashion. IT was phenomenal. I mean we just have a great great—just a great amount of people that are so willing to help with these bigger projects.
PRIESTLEY: The Annex is gone, and all of the offices have been moved into their new locations, but do freshman even know there is a building missing?
RUSS DEGITZ: I was talking to some freshman who really didn’t know or remember if they had done campus visits or whatever that there was a building there, and they just thought it seemed like it was just a natural spot for an open space.
PRIESTLEY: Maddie Warden is a freshman youth ministry and missions double major here at HU. Warden shares her memory of the Annex building.
MADDIE WARDEN: So when I came for the finally foresters event, all the construction was happening, and the building just got torn down. It was like right out my window, so I kinda like being able to see more. So probably if it was still up, I probably wouldn’t have the view I have out my dorm window right now.
PRIESTLEY: Sophomore finance and economics major Courtney Craig lived on Roush second last year and is living there again this year, experiencing a whole new view of the Library and Becker Hall now that the Annex and some of the trees around it are gone.
CRAIG: I didn’t realize how much it was blocking until it’s gone and then we’re like, Oh, that’s kind of really weird. And then like with the trees here too. It wasn’t blocking the view or anything, but we were just used to them. I was used to having a tree there. While I was moved in and stuff—I think itt was before freshman moved in—it was like eight in the morning and and all of a sudden I hear like “rrrrrr” [imitates sound] of like a chainsaw, and I was like, What is happening? And then I look out my window, and I see the tree just—”Boom!” [claps hands together]— hit the ground. And I’m like, Okay, eight in the morning’s a little early. But they didn’t think we would be here, so it makes sense.
PRIESTLEY: With the empty space now available, what, if anything will be put on that part of the lawn? Over homecoming weekend, tents were put up on the new lawn space to hold class reunions and departments gatherings for the alumni. There were also a couple of food trucks that were parked there. Even some students have been utilizing the space, sitting outside working on homework or just chilling out.
RUSS DEGITZ: For right now that’s the use, but there are some options that will always kind of be under consideration as we’re trying to find the best fit for our campus and for the university. So, you know, we don’t want to make a rash decision on that. We want to see it in use now and envision what it could be.
PRIESTLEY: Being one of the older buildings on HU’s campus, the Annex has housed a lot of memories for alumni and staff members like Lynette Fager.
FAGER: I have really wonderful memories from the Annex. From the time I was a student employee to coming in as a new employee at the university a couple years ago. Like I have wonderful memories of that experience and that time and that space. And I think it was one of those places where I will always be grateful that I had the experience of working in that building and not many people on campus really did. Very few faculty and staff really in the grand scheme ever had the opportunity to work in that space. But to be able to say that I was part of that and I was part of its history was really cool. And I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a little piece of brick that just kind of reminds me of that—like of the things that not only that I learned in that space but also of the value of the people who have come before us.
PRIESTLEY: While there are parts of being in the Annex that Fager and Schwob will miss, such as seeing the fountain soaped from their office window, they are happy to be where they are now. Students and staff are optimistic of use of the new lawn space and look forward to the possibilities of what it could be. [Music fades out for approximately 10 seconds] Reporting for the Huntingtonian, this is Kelsey Priestley.