The Hoch Auditorium fire last summer at Kansas University provided an unexpected opportunity for Historic Mount Oread Fund members to broaden their role in campus preservation efforts and to renew their dedication to the group's purpose.
Money has been earmarked for rebuilding Hoch, and its facade will be preserved. Now, fund members are focusing their attention on another historic campus building, Spooner Hall.
Looking ahead to Spooner's 100th birthday in October 1994, fund members have embarked on a project with KU architecture students to produce detailed drawings and measurements of the building that will be part of a federal survey of historic American buildings.
Carol Shankel, who chairs the 1994 Spooner Hall Centennial Celebration Committee, said Mount Oread Fund members hope that Spooner's celebration will draw public attention to the building and its preservation needs, as well as the needs of other historic buildings on campus.
FORMED IN 1981 as a branch of the Kansas University Endowment Association, the fund's goal is to preserve KU's architectural history as well as other points of historic significance on campus.
Dennis Farney, outgoing fund president, said he was encouraged with the group's role in saving Hoch's facade. A fire started by lightning gutted the historic building on June 15, 1991.
He said members "jumped in right away" with phone calls to KU officials while the fire burned and a hand-delivered letter to Chancellor Gene Budig on Monday after the Saturday fire. Then, the group commissioned Lawrence architect John Lee to do an analysis of what design issues needed to be addressed in rebuilding Hoch and submitted that document to the university.
In a subsequent meeting with the chancellor, Farney said, "Budig could not have been more supportive of saving the facade."
MAYBE THE GROUP'S efforts helped crystalize the importance of saving the facade, Farney said, or simply enforced certain values that were already there "that these landmarks are worth saving."
Lawrence architect Craig Patterson, the fund's president-elect, said members of the group also talked with Kansas legislators to encourage funding of the project. Still, funding was in doubt until federal funding to the state last spring provided $18 million for Hoch's restoration.
"We were benefited by a windfall," Patterson said. "I think it's an act of God. He was on our side."
Now the group's major project is Spooner Hall, which has been a campus library and art museum. It now houses KU's Museum of Anthropology.
Shankel said KU architecture students this summer have been producing detailed drawings to document the building's exterior.
Eric Zabilka, Kurt Brunner, Steve Harrington, David Haase, Ted Schmitz and Keri Winslow, students of Barry Newton, associate professor of architecture and urban design, are making the drawings, which will become part of the federal government's Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).
THE RENDERINGS will be exhibited at KU's Spencer Museum of Art during Spooner's centennial celebration, Shankel said, and eventually will be deposited in the HABS collection at the Library of Congress.
Newton said that in addition to Spooner, two other historic Kansas buildings were being documented for HABS by his students this summer Constitution Hall at Lecompton and the Bethel Adobe Church near Inman, just northwest of Newton. Their work will be entered in a nationwide competition held in connection with the federal program, he added.
"The real challenge with Spooner is to figure out how to render the sandstone," Newton said, noting that in his view Spooner was "the best building on campus."
It will take his students two summers to complete the Spooner drawings, Newton said, noting that probably this year, site notes and photographic details will be completed and next summer, the actual renderings will be done.
ANOTHER ASPECT of the Spooner centennial under way is pursuit of an outdoor sculpture as a birthday gift to the building. Shankel said the fund was looking in particular for an ethnic minority artist to create the piece, to reflect the building's historically intercultural uses. Fund members are working with KU officials to meet university sculpture guidelines, and on fund-raising.
While much attention is now focused on Spooner, the group has other projects in the works.
One is a Heritage Garden, which would run northeast from the intersection of Jayhawk Boulevard and Mississippi Street, in the slip of land that separates those streets.
"We're looking for a kindred spirit to come to its aid," Patterson said of the garden, which is planned as the final stop on a campus walking tour already developed by the group.
OTHER ONGOING Historic Mount Oread Fund projects include a coffee table book about KU landmarks and the placement of markers and obelisks at various historic sites on campus.
The group already has placed bronze plaques at the 10 most historic buildings on campus and has helped develop a park-like setting to mark the site of Old North College, KU's first building. Featured there are the old building's original stone steps, donated to the fund by Lawrence resident Ina Lee Green.
Farney and Patterson said efforts also would be renewed to increase membership in the group, which now has about 130 active members.
"I'd like to see us broaden out a lot more than that," Farney said.
Patterson said the group had "tried to make people aware of us by our deeds" and noted in particular that the group's efforts on behalf of Hoch had helped increase public awareness of the fund's existence.
"These projects take a number of years,'' Patterson said, ``but none of them would have happened if someone hadn't been there with the concept and persevered."
Patterson, who calls the preservation projects "community builders," said, "The university must continue to evolve but it can do so respectfully of the campus."