Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Oberlin’s Warner Hall Meets the Wrecking Ball – Fall 1964

Vintgage Postcard
(Courtesy www.playle.com)
Although I’m straying dangerously onto the turf of the Oberlin In The Past Facebook page, I thought I would post this vintage article anyway. It ran in the Friday, September 25, 1964 Lorain Journal.

The article is about the upcoming demolition (a favorite topic on this blog) of Warner Hall (seen in the above vintage postcard), home to the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music since 1884. The well-written sentimental tribute was written by Bob Thomas.

THE OLD AND THE NEW – Warner Hall on the left of the trees, which has
housed the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music since 1884 is doomed
to fall before the demolition hammer Monday. In its place the second 
phase of the King Building seen on the left [sic] of the trees will begin to rise in 
the spring. The new building named in honor of Henry Churchill King, former 
president of the college, was designed by the famed Japanese-American 
architect, Minoru Yamasaki of Birmingham, Mich., who also designed the 
new Conservatory of Music which is located across the corner of W. College 
and S. Professor Sts., from the old building.
Old Warner Hall Becomes a Memory

OBERLIN – “It will never be the Con without Warner Hall,” one Oberlin graduate wrote to the editors of the Alumni Magazine in 1958 when plans for the razing of the old Conservatory of Music were announced.

The letter continued referring to Warner Hall and other old college buildings as “...our dignifed ancestors in stone."

Another alumnus writing to the same publication said, “...believe me, Oberlin will certainly lose out should our campus lose the old buildings that so faithful served ‘ten thousand strong.’ Much would be lacking to attract us back to class reunions and graduation time.”

Still another, reminiscing the good old days and his favorites among the faculty members wrote –

“These are the things that make Oberlin and these buildings dear to us. Not what we got from books, but what we got from the lives of men and women that helped us form our characters. These buildings bring back these teachers to our minds with a happy memory.”

There is little doubt that many hearts will be heavy Monday when demolition crews from the Cuyahoga Wrecking Co. begin to raze Warner Hall.

In fact the demolition is already in progress as much of the interior has already been disrupted.

When classes at Oberlin College started Tuesday it marked the first time in 80 years that Conservatory of Music students did not scamper up the broad stone steps to classes, lessons and rehearsals. Instead they scurried through the halls looking for the proper classroom or studio in the beautiful new Conservatory complex across the corner from the old structure.

If stone and mortar had feelings as we humans, the past two years would have been very difficult for the old music center, for day after day workmen, in full view of the aged Warner Hall, were putting together the “scaffold” upon which if would plunge to oblivion.

Yesterday as the gray autumn clouds hovered over the yet stately stone structure, its bare windows, and the absence of life around it seemed to cast gloom over that section of the campus.

There have been many physical changes on the Oberlin campus in recent years as the college is progressing with several major development programs, but certainly none to date have changed the appearance of the college grounds as will the removal of the old Conservatory of Music.

In its place will be constructed the second phase of the King Memorial Building. The first step in this project was completed three years ago. It is the white concrete structure immediately to the north of Warner Hall.

When completed, the King Building, designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who also planned the new Conservatory, will be an appropriate complement to the new $4,500,000 music complex.

Also a part of the King Building is Rice Hall, which was built in 1910 as a part of the Conservatory of Music. It has been completely remodeled. The King Building will accommodate programs in the humanities and social sciences.

So the old must give way to the new, the tears that are shed for old Warner Hall will soon dry. Old grads will return, the campus will not be the same as when they cavorted about as undergrads, but it will be just as beautiful.

The years move swiftly, soon old Warner Hall will be forgotten, and alumni will be cherishing memories about the buildings that are new to this group of students.

This is life’s never-ending cycle, but let’s hope that we can always cherish even stone and mortar when they have meant so much in making life, though short it may be, worthwhile.

Good - bye old Warner Hall, thousands of Oberlinians will miss you when they return to campus for a visit, but you will still hold a lofty place in their memories until they too walk the last mile.

My older brother and I took music lessons from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music students back in the mid-1970s for a few months.

(I was hoping to improve my self-taught trombone technique, learned from watching Stan Laurel in Saps at Sea. In the movie, he takes trombone lessons and the only song he ever learns is "Home Sweet Home.” By mimicking him, I was able to learn trombone over one summer and then play it in the Admiral King Marching Band – where I sat a few seats from Scott Welko.)

But getting back to my Oberlin College music lessons.
It was interesting to drive down there once a week and be part of a campus experience a couple years before officially going off to college myself. It was a nice preview, although Ohio State was pretty different from Oberlin and its latter-day hippies.


Wireless.Phil said...

You were probably there when my cousin Jackie Minor was there.
Can't remember if she married the teacher or the professor of music.
Atel, I think he name is now, haven't seen her in many years and don't remember.

Anonymous said...

Nice tribute by that guy but I have read that when the wrecking ball was tearing down that BEAUTIFUL building, students were cheering. And then they replaced it with something reformatory-style.

Interestingly, it was named after a popular college president, King, and not the very first president, Asa Mahan, who once had a house on that site. He was not popular.