By Grace Hatton, Editor-in-Chief
Carson Hall, built in 1926, was one of the oldest buildings on campus before it was demolished in 2011. Carson served as an academic building for many departments including Outdoor Leadership, the Environmental Leadership Center, and more. Carson was located past the Admissions Office and before the Spidel building, between the two large oak trees. Carson was a lovely, old, red-brick building that enjoyed panoramic views of the valley, and, like the other red-brick buildings such as Spidel and Sunderland, reminded students of Wilson’s long history in this area. In the summer of 2011 Carson was demolished because the building was structurally unsound. The structural issues were caused by a series of water drainage problems exacerbated by summer humidity (which led to issues with mold) and original poor construction. “It was not the solid brick building it appeared to be,” says Vice President for Advancement, Richard Blomgren. The summer of Carson’s demolition, student work crews sorted through the heap of what was Carson Hall in order to recycle and reclaim salvageable materials. Much of the brick and trim of Carson was saved for future use, and other materials were recycled.
After student crews had worked through the remains of Carson, the college went to work on raising funds for a new building. Although many students, like myself, had heard rumors about a new sustainable Student Activity Center, Wilson’s main concern was replacing the lost academic facilities. The need to replace this academic space was due to the fact that Carson took eight classrooms and about 20% of faculty offices with it when it was demolished.
In order to raise funds for a new building in Carson’s former location, the Advancement office created the “academic building fund,” and this fund has been growing steadily ever since Carson’s destruction. “We are in the silent phase and are assessing the potential for a more public phase,” says Blomgren “We have about $2,000,000 in gifts and pledges, $1,000,000 set aside from college resources and we have the process of securing a lead gift as well as foundation gifts.”
With regards to fundraising and planning for Carson’s replacement, Blomgren explained why there hasn’t been much discussion about the progress of the project with the student body. According to Blomgren it all has to do with the phase of fundraising the Advancement Office is currently in, which is a silent phase. “In any fundraising project, you have design time and the silent time to secure lead gifts – that is the phase we are in now till summer,” says Blomgren. After more funds have been secured more detailed plans will be shared with the greater community.”
Architects have visited campus, though, and designs are being put together for the new academic building. Although the designs are still in their infancy, the estimated size of the new building is 15,000-square-foot, and the cost for the construction is $6 million. The new building will be a home for the social sciences, the MFA program for Creative Writing, and sustainability programming.There is no definite timeline for construction of the new academic building at this point, since Wilson is still in the process of raising the funds needed for the project. I, for one, however, am glad to know that the spot between the oak trees will eventually have a new academic space that will serve the Wilson community for as long, or maybe even longer, than the beautiful Carson Hall.