Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's just too sad to think about

Too Flawed To Save?

By David Blymire, January 17, 2006

A symbol of Dickinson School of Law since 1918 may have to come down if challenging structural issues can’t be resolved.

"One question we’re examining closely is the relative cost of preserving original Trickett Hall," law school Dean Philip McConnaughay says. "It’s turning out that there are some very significant, very costly, structural challenges involved in preserving Trickett."

No final decisions have been made, but McConnaughay says that "it’s certainly possible that we and our major donors might prefer to raze Trickett and invest instead in an entirely new signature building for the law school and the community."

If that were to happen, a new facility would include architectural features that "honor" Trickett Hall, he says.

The new building could include architectural features from Trickett, such as parts of the bell tower, he says.

A matter of budgeting

Penn State University last year embarked on a plan to split the law school into two campuses, renovating the Carlisle facility and building new quarters at the main campus in State College.

Penn State’s board of trustees hired Polshek Partnership of New York last fall to design facilities for both locations.

It now appears that saving Trickett would consume a larger portion of the $30 million to $50 million available for the project than expected, reducing the money available for construction of the proposed additions, McConnaughay says.

He explains that two fire stairwells added to the structure in the 1960s are separating from the original structure and are "in need of major attention."

Also, the entire back side of the original Trickett Hall was removed in order to accommodate later additions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Officials expect, as with any major construction project, they also would be required to retrofit Trickett Hall to meet current fire safety codes, he says.

"All of these structural issues and more suggest the cost of renovation is likely to exceed a manageable portion of the project budget," McConnaughay says.

Under the two-campus plan approved last year, Penn State would invest $10 million into renovations and upgrades at the Carlisle campus.

Another $10 million to $15 million raised in contributions from alumni and other sources would be matched by up to $25 million in state funds committed by Gov. Ed Rendell.

McConnaughay says fundraising is going "extremely well and there is a distinct possibility that we may end up with a $50 million budget" for the Carlisle project.

Officials weigh in

Local and state officials have been briefed on the issue. None has expressed opposition to the idea of demolishing Trickett.

"We want to keep the law school in Carlisle for many years to come — that’s the bottom line," says state Sen. Pat Vance, R-31.

She says "it’s very expensive to renovate an old building." She adds Trickett is not the law school’s original home and the rear of the building is in bad shape.

"If the new building can have a facade that somewhat resembles Trickett and it keeps Dickinson School of Law rooted in Carlisle, that’s a good thing," she says. "That’s my prime objective."

County Commissioner Bruce Barclay, whose background is in construction, says a core building separating from an addition is a serious problem.

"If the problems are as bad as the dean said, it makes sense to not expend the extra funds to make the structural repairs to Trickett Hall."

Barclay adds that "if he (McConnaughay) can make it work out, we’ll have a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility."

Carlisle Borough Council President Don Grell says he was a little surprised by the news about Trickett, adding he wasn’t aware of the building’s condition.

He calls Trickett Hall "the face of the law school" but "I respect their right to do what they think they need to do with the campus."

State Rep. Will Gabig, R-199, thinks the final decision on how to resolve the problem is one for Penn State and the law school to make.

"I appreciate the dean talking to us," he says.

Fast facts

Trickett Hall, a Colonial-style structure at South College and West South streets was named after William Trickett, who served as the law school’s dean from 1890 until his death in 1928.

The law school was housed from 1890 to 1918 in Emory Hall, a building loaned to the law school by Dickinson College. Emory stood at the site of what is now Grace United Methodist Church at West and Pomfret streets in Carlisle.

Judge John Reed originally held law school classes in the lower level of what today is the home of Dickinson College President William Durden at the corner of West High and South West streets in Carlisle.