Last Chance to Visit Oakwood Announced

Following in the steps of Joshua and his followers of Old Testament days, his contemporary comrades can march around — or in — the building seven times — even more, if desired. Then, the walls will come tumblin’ down.

Oakwood, Eastern Mennonite University’s nearly 40 year-old residence hall with a reputation for (mostly) harmless pranks and good-natured rowdiness, is slated for demolition around the first week of September.

A new 120-room residence hall will replace Oakwood at the same location on the “quad” facing Maplewood and Elmwood residence halls, completed in 1963.

Just before demolition occurs, former residents of the facility that housed some 2,800 men between 1969 and 2008 have been invited to come pay their last respects to the hallowed halls.

Invitation to Visit send to a friend

On Labor Day, Sept. 1, alumni, friends and community members are invited to tour Oakwood between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Demolition of the three-story, 35,000 square-foot building is scheduled to begin after Sept. 3.

Ken L. Nafziger, vice president for student life, and C. Eldon Kurtz, director of physical plant — both former Oakwood residents — will host the visitation along with EMU advancement division staff.

“Anyone who lived in Oakwood as a student or has interest in this facility of some notoriety is welcome to come for one last look at the building,” said Kirk L. Shisler, vice president for advancement. “Be aware, however, that the building won’t look like it did in its glory days… it has been stripped of furniture and salvageable material, some of which will be used in constructing the new facility.”

Furniture from the building has been sold or donated to Gift and Thrift for auction later this fall to benefit Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), reports Kurtz. Interior doors, mirrors, towel racks and other miscellaneous items have been shipped to Ethiopia for use at the Meserete Kristos College in Ethiopia.

Visitors can sign up to receive a brick from Oakwood with a small bronze plaque (“Oakwood 1969-2008”) that will be available at fall homecoming and family weekend, Oct. 10-11, for a suggested $25 donation.

Proceeds will cover expenses and go toward a fund to establish an Oakwood wall or display in the new residence hall that incorporates materials salvaged from the old building. Cold drinks will be available at the visitation. Vouchers for lunch in the EMU dining hall will also be available for off-campus guests.

Local alumni in the building trades will join EMU Physical Plant director, Eldon Kurtz on Saturday, Aug. 31, to salvage materials from the walls prior to demolition. Other memorabilia — such as plumbing fixtures — will be available for sale on the day of the visitation and at homecoming this fall.

EMU plans to seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at the silver level for the Oakwood demolition and construction process. All materials in the original building are being carefully assessed for re-usability. Debris from the demolition will be ground into fill for the new project. Unusable waste will be sorted for recycling. Ultimately, very little waste from the original building will go to the landfill.

EMU anticipates the new, $6 million, three-story residence hall will be ready for occupancy the fall of 2009.

Questions about the Labor Day visitation event can be directed to Douglas J. Nyce, director of alumni and parent relations.

A blog has been set up on the EMU web site for persons to post Oakwood memories. A web cam will be set up to watch demolition and construction progress on a new facility at the same web address.