Historic landmark to be rebuilt in spring 2000
By NOREEN GILLESPIE
Saint Mary's Editor
On the secluded northwest corner of Saint Mary's, set back from the commotion of campus, a 78-year-old building sits quietly, coming alive only when the students of Saint Mary's invigorate it with activity.
Teetering on the outmost border, just to the left of Holy Cross Hall, lies the Clubbhouse, home of the student-run coffee shop Dalloways. The Clubbhouse, a gift from the Class of 1922, has become a type of retreat for Saint Mary's students. A spirited place of music and soft chatter over coffee, social events and a place where the walls whisper of tradition, it has evolved into a get-away for students who crave a change of scenery.
Next semester the building will vanish.
At a Board of Governance meeting last week, the questions surrounding the future of the Clubbhouse were answered when the Historical Preservation Committee made the recommendation to the Board that the 78-year-old Clubbhouse be reconstructed. The decision, which was the culmination of seven months worth of debate and discussion about the Clubhouse, was "the only practical solution" the committee could make, according to vice president of finance and administration Keith Dennis.
But as students and activity groups prepare to lose what has become one of the most cherished spots on campus and adopt its replacement, a new set of questions emerge about tradition, character and what the "new" Dalloways will mean to the community.
Weighing the options
Perhaps the biggest consideration in determining the Clubbhouse's future was attempting at all costs to preserve the building, said Julie Duba, a member of the Historical Preservation Committee who presented the recommendation to BOG last week.
"One of our biggest considerations in making this decision was that the Clubbhouse was a gift from the Class of 1922, and we wanted to respect that," Duba said. "We really struggled with wanting to retain the charm of the building. [If we decided to reconstruct], we didn't want it to be just another new building on campus — getting a facelift and losing some of those ties. We wanted to keep [the Clubbhouse] alive."
Regardless of the Clubhouse's future, preserving the tradition and gift of the Class of 1922 remained integral through the discussion of three options the committee drafted, Duba said.
The first option — to raze the Clubbhouse and move student functions to the new student center that will be constructed as a part of the Campus Master Plan — was discussed and rejected by the committee.
"We wanted the Clubbhouse to remain its own building," Duba said. "We felt strongly about that."
A second proposal, moving the original Clubbhouse to an alternate location, was a tempting proposal but one that presented problems.
"First of all, there is no clear-cut path to move the Clubbhouse without cutting down trees," Duba said. "Also, because the structure is so old, who knows if it would even survive the move?"
Financial considerations also played a role.
While the estimated cost of moving the Clubbhouse would total approximately $450,000, that did not include the cost of potential renovations needed as a result of damage that could incur by the move, Dennis said.
The only remaining option, reconstructing the Clubhouse, became a mission to preserve the original character of the Clubbhouse, Duba said.
"We agreed that if we were going to build a new one, we wanted to include many of the physical characteristics that make Dalloways what it is," Duba said. "Some of those characteristics could be taking the original doors and windows from the building. We want this built as close to the old one as possible."
Weighing the benefits
While the loss of the original Dalloway's is inevitable, one of the possible benefits is the potential for expansion, Duba said.
Plans drafted last spring to expand the Clubbhouse's facilities to include a small kitchen for food service in the building were set to begin construction last summer. However, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who own property rights to all the land surrounding the Clubbhouse excluding the building and the footprint of the building itself, expressed concerns about the land being unstable.
"Problems along the edge of the St. Joseph River on the campus of Saint Mary's College have necessitated a decision to raze the Clubbhouse, a landmark building on campus," stated a press release released by the College in spring of 1999.
Those concerns have since been declared irrelevant.
"When the issue came up about expanding Dalloways, there was discussion about a document that said the bank was unstable," said Dennis. "It was really just one of those kinds of rumor issues. That document was never produced."
However, there was discussion that many of the sisters believed the Clubbhouse should be moved to a more central space on campus.
"What it came down to is that they just didn't want that function to be expanded," Dennis said. "With no time pressure, they decided that they wanted that chunk of ground and that [the Clubbhouse] should move back to campus."
The Clubbhouse land is located closer to the convent and central property owned by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who own the total property in the outer loop of campus, including the athletic fields and cornfields that extend to the edge of U.S. 31.
"There was some discussion that the sisters didn't like the noise and the traffic of the building," Duba said.
The Dalloways decision was a sort of "trade-off" to be able to have access to other campus land, according to Duba and Dennis.
"At the beginning of the Master Plan, the campus wanted to own the ground that the athletic fields are on," Dennis said. While the land is currently leased from the Sisters of the Holy Cross, "they are an integral part of the campus, and the sisters have no use for them."
However, discussions of land transfers would not be entertained until a Master Plan was formed, providing the sisters' request of a plan for the land use to be a "principal driver" in the formation of the recently implemented Campus Master Plan.
"In the end, they wanted a comprehensive solution — to talk about everything, the athletic fields and the Clubbhouse," Dennis said.
Representatives from the Sisters of the Holy Cross could not be reached for comment at press time.
The relocation of the Clubbhouse facility, tentatively planned to be located near Lake Marion, will provide options for expansion not available with the current facility. Plans to include the desired kitchen facility could allow for more diverse student functions, according to Student Activities Board chairwoman Janet Horvath.
"That would be a great asset to have," Horvath said. "Right now, we only have the capacity to have Dalloways open three nights a week. It would be a great advantage to have additional food and drinks at student activity functions."
Ground will break for the new Clubbhouse in March of 2000, making it one of the first elements to be physically constructed in the Campus Master Plan. With an anonymous donation of $250,000 given to the College last week in support of the project, $70,000 in existing bond monies and $30,000 raised by the Parents Council, financial support is intact and will not be an issue.
The only challenge left is acceptance by a student body that may be hesitant to welcome the structure with open arms.
"I'm sure that will be an issue … it's inescapable," Duba said. "We feel strongly enough about keeping the charm and feel that we're going to do as much as we can to preserve the original Dalloways."
Part of those plans include excavating the original cornerstone from the building and using it as the cornerstone in the new one as well.
And there are surprises yet to be uncovered.
"Since the building was a gift from the Class of 1922, there could be a time capsule incorporated in that building somewhere," Duba said. "We may open that time capsule, add to it or use it as a display somewhere in the new Dalloways."
The original Clubbhouse will not be demolished until later in the semester, allowing current student organizations and programs — such as SAB comedians, guest speakers and the Dalloways coffeehouse to continue uninterrupted.
Student functions currently take place in the building once or twice a month, said Horvath.
"We're sad to see the building taken down," Horvath said, "but we're happy to see that the committee has recoginzed the need for this building on campus."
Over time, the Historic Preservation Committee hopes to see the new building take on a charm of its own.
"I'm not worried," Duba said. "We've got the best of both worlds. When you take the endearing characteristics of this building and couple them with the innovative ones that we're adding, we'll have something really great on campus."
All News Stories for Tuesday, November 23, 1999