Wichita State University’s oldest building, Fiske Hall, will now be fully ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant. A current construction project will add and elevator and an exit stairwell to the 112 year old building, making it the last building on WSU campus to become ADA compliant.
"It's a very detailed project – inside and out," said Larry Maxwell, the project's general contractor. "I think they've made a good effort to make it blend in with the existing building."
The school had previously stored records of the stone and brick originally used in the building’s construction, and was able to find a near perfect match for the current renovation materials. The building’s arches and architectural elements will be replicated in the exterior of the stairwell so as to stay consistent with the building's original design.
According to the project’s lead architect, Jeff Minar, the most difficult aspect is ensuring that all of the dimensions of the building line up. This is because, at the time of the building’s construction, bricks were produced in a smaller size than they are today, making the construction measurements far less precise.
"It's challenging and interesting at the same time," said Minar. "It's fun to be able to look back on the history of the building and see where some of the materials came from and how construction was different."
Fiske Hall began with a cornerstone laying in 1904. This event was Fairmount College’s first major public event (with the exception of commencement) since the college was founded in 1895. The then Fairmount College president Nathan J. Morrison spoke at the event, as did representatives from both the community and the student body. The school’s band and chorus performed college songs at the event, and the grand master of the Masons of Kansas found that the cornerstone for the boys’ dormitory was correctly laid and well formed, so he blessed it with corn, oil, and wine.
The building went on to serve many purposes over the years. It was a house for army cadets during World War I, an infirmary during the 1918 influenza epidemic, barracks for World War II reserve officers training corps, home to the first campus booster group, the unofficial music building, an administration building and finally home of both the history and philosophy departments. Though other buildings came and went, and the university underwent two name changes, Fiske Hall stood firm through the school’s continual growth and eventual transition from small Christian college to a large state university.
The renovation is expected to be completed mid-May.