By Kathy Leinen
Commitment, students, pride, dedication, focus, preservation, history – these words coalesce into a comprehensive message from North Dakota State College of Science President Dr. John Richman.
Work that began in December 2013 outfitted Old Main with new mechanical and electrical systems, HVAC unit, doors and windows, all while saving as much of the historical nature of the building special to both the campus and Wahpeton.
This $8.4 million renovation project shifted Wahpeton’s iconic Old Main from a derelict building into one that supports student achievement and success.
The campus will celebrate the historic building’s overhaul with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 on campus.
“There are two areas we’ve always prided ourselves on, a culture of continuous education improvement and legislative support in a facility that is the icon of NDSCS and Wahpeton,” Richman said.
“We refer to ourselves as developers. We develop people,” he said. “We are very focused on students and their success. Our commitment is shown here after spending millions of dollars to improve our ability to better serve and support students. We’ve improved our facilities and improved our capability of better serving students.”
The 63rd North Dakota Legislature approved the capital expenditure project a few years ago by fully funding the renovation with an $8.3 million price tag. Included in this cost were razing two buildings and renovating Old Main. One of the demolished buildings had been vacant for several years and the other was minimally used, Richman said.
Materials from other buildings were utilized in the project. Banisters, staircases, original flooring and other materials were used and reclaimed. Unique characteristics that had been hidden were preserved, he said.
There were some surprises when walls came down. An old chalk board still mounted to the wall was discovered. The English teacher who last used it left their cursive writing behind, a piece that has been preserved and displayed. They also found a tile students from the early 1900s left behind on which their names were written.
These pieces of college history were salvaged and used in the renovation.
Historically speaking, Old Main has gone through multiple uses through the years. It has served as a library, the president’s residence, classrooms, a gymnasium and administrative and faculty offices.
“It has served a lot of purposes over the years,” Richman said. “We’ve renovated it and repurposed it once again.”
The moniker the New Old Main has been used to label the building, a name that just seems to fit. It currently houses faculty offices and classrooms, as well as an enhanced student success center. Student support centers were once scattered all over campus, Richman said, but are now located in Old Main. The center is helping students achieve success through tutoring, career services, academic counseling and career counseling.
Although a tall and imposing structure, the four floors seem less institutionalized after mixing old with new. The fourth floor hasn’t been used for years but after the remodeling process, it was fitted with classroom space, faculty offices and student gathering areas with small computer nooks and lounging areas.
The history of the institution has been preserved and Old Main is flourishing once again with students and staff bustling in and out. The original feel of Old Main has been reclaimed, but with a modern twist.
Richman welcomes all area residents to join the college in the ribbon cutting ceremony. The culinary arts students will prepare refreshments following the program. Self-guided tours and a video tribute to Old Main will run until 3 p.m. so people can see what the college has accomplished.
Parking will be available in the parking lot on the north side of Old Main.
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