Section: Features

Bexley’s history: seminary, art studios and empty spaces

If you pause for just a moment on Middle Path on any given day, you will see students hurrying to and from class, clusters of friends talking: the energizing liveliness of campus life. If you follow the path north, however, you’ll notice Kenyon grow quiet. Bexley Hall looms over North Campus, mirroring Old Kenyon just over half a mile away, but the building is one which many students have never even stepped foot in. After years of lying (mostly) dormant, the building is finally under construction to provide more student housing by the 2023-2024 academic year. The building has a history as old as Kenyon itself, existing as a seminary, art studio and office space, but there were periods it simply sat abandoned. 

Bexley, for well over a century, was a residential Episcopal seminary — a separate institution from the College, yet still part of Philander Chase’s vision. According to a recent article in the Kenyon Alumni Magazine, Chase wanted the seminary and Old Kenyon to be the “hubs” for each school, so it’s fitting that they each stand at one end of Middle Path. Bexley became the seminary building in 1839 and drew many Kenyon graduates who wanted to go on to work in the Episcopal Church. It wasn’t until 1968 that the seminary disassociated from Kenyon and moved to Rochester, New York, to expand its theological education in an urban area. 

From 1968 to 1972, Bexley was empty, except for a few offices and new renovations. This included tearing out the building’s central grand staircase in order to convert the space into art studios and offices for the Department of Studio Art. The building was never the perfect space for the department, as the classrooms and hallways were very small, but it was still a beautiful home for art students and their professors to convene in. Colburn Hall, the adjacent building attached to Bexley by an arch, served as an art gallery. This lasted until 2012, when the department moved to Horvitz Hall, a new building more suited to their needs. 

After the Department of Studio Art moved, there was no designated purpose for the building. Various staff and faculty members set up temporary offices to utilize the otherwise empty building. Students themselves would wander the halls, if they could get in. However, the number of people coming and going from Bexley was still very small, and it was quiet for years. 

The 2004 Master Plan sought to turn Bexley into student housing, but the project was left on the backburner for financial reasons. It finally launched in 2020 with the financial support of an anonymous donation — an offer to pay for half the cost of renovation. 

Now, the community can look forward to having the space back in the next year, filled with life once again.


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