I awoke on April 18 in my room in Babcock Hall to the sound of demolition at the Wooster Inn. I had known this moment would be coming, but not for long. The College made its final decision regarding the fate of the structure only two months ago in February, and never formally announced their choice to the student body (I scoured my email and the Weekly Sway). That seems like an awfully short notice for such a big change, not only to our campus community, but also to the greater Wooster community. The Inn was one of the few campus structures that connected the College so integrally to the wider city, and now it is gone forever.
The Wooster Inn was constructed in 1958. It had been a beacon of hospitality for decades and hosted many weddings, among other significant life events. The Inn will remain at the heart of many memories, but no new ones will be formed there.
Let’s talk about historic preservation. The loss of the historic structure is priceless, and though it would have been expensive to address the updates needed for the Inn, it would have been feasible to save. According to The Daily Record, local historic preservationist Wendy Barlow said that the Inn met the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places to become a historic landmark. However the destruction of the Wooster Inn now sets a precedent that promotes demolition over preservation. With every lost historic structure, we also lose irreplaceable pieces of our built heritage –– significant parts of our culture.
In the past, the College renovated the Lilly House, a Victorian structure that was in a derelict state of being. Those who saw potential in the house gave it a new lease on life and it opened on campus in 2003, where the Lilly House was able to serve the campus community in new ways. Could the College have not found other purposes for the Inn? Any building can be adapted for new use, and even alterations are much better than demolition. The Wooster Inn could have been modified to accommodate more student housing, with the potential for additions to create more space. I feel this would provide a more economical and sustainable alternative to demolishing the structure, moving the tennis courts to the site, then building all new housing options where the current courts reside, which seems to be the current plan.
The College touts its environmentally-friendly approach to campus productions. We know it is performative at best, and every prospective student who eats from paper plates and plastic cutlery knows it too. The demolition of the Inn further stresses this point. The pre-demolition felling of 25 trees puts shame to the College’s tree-friendly facade. Beyond this, the greenest building is one that already exists. I recognize that this is a viewpoint article, but that is simply a fact. What is Wooster putting into the landfills and air with this action? How many new materials will they take from the earth for the tennis courts and further construction campaigns? What toll will the shipping procedures take on our planet? The College loves to put on an ecologically supportive veil, making the class of 2022 read “Garbology” upon their entrance in 2018, but it seems mostly to be a pretense. The campus celebrated Earth Day on the 22nd, and the College proudly claimed its role in sustainability. The demolition of the Wooster Inn directly contradicts this and establishes a precedent that undermines our built heritage.