Section: News

The future face of Kenyon’s campus

The sun is setting on Sunset Cottage. A former private home that has hosted part of the College’s English department since the 1970s, the cottage may be demolished as part of the College’s plans to construct an entryway to an underground parking garage, according to Jesse Matz, professor of English and chair of the department.

In an April 26 meeting, the English department and Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman discussed plans for two new English buildings, designed by Gund Partnership, the Cambridge, Mass. firm headed by Graham Gund ’63 H’83. Matz said these plans will soon be finalized.

“We’ll be sad to see it go, but what we’re getting in place of it is going to be wonderful,” Matz said.

Current plans include two new buildings constructed near Lentz House, one larger building to the southwest of Lentz with 15 offices, and one smaller building built into the side of the hill between Lentz House and Bailey House comprising of two classrooms and three offices.

Earlier discussions included the possibility of moving Sunset Cottage to another location, but the department decided against this measure. According to Matz, moving and renovating Sunset would have been prohibitively costly, and it may have been impossible to renovate the building so it would be fully accessible.

“Fifteen of our professors are in a building where a person in a wheelchair cannot get to them, and I think that’s wrong,” Sarah Heidt ’97, associate professor of English, said. Both new buildings will include elevators, according to Matz.

The new buildings were designed with the goal of creating more common spaces for students, as well as enough office space for English faculty, Matz said. The English department has 26 permanent and visiting members, and one administrative assistant. Sunset Cottage currently houses 15 offices.

Not everyone is looking forward to the upcoming changes. According to Matz and Heidt, Kohlman said some alumni have expressed nostalgia about their time spent in Sunset and disappointment over losing a piece of Kenyon history.

“I’m sentimental about it,” Katharine Weber, Richard L. Thomas visiting professor of creative writing, said. The Kenyon Review was published out of that building for some years. It has a lot of meaning for people.”

Weber, whose office has been on the second floor of Sunset for the past three years, said the poor condition of Sunset would make cost-effective renovation difficult. Weber expressed concern over the new buildings having just two new classroom spaces and two extra offices, with the department split into three smaller buildings without a central gathering point for faculty.

The Denham Sutcliffe Memorial Library inside Sunset, more commonly known as the Sunset seminar room, will be recreated in one of the new buildings. Heidt said workers may remove the original woodwork from the walls of the seminar room for use in the new building.

According to Matz, the new buildings will likely be constructed before Sunset is demolished to minimize disruption to the department, though no timeline for construction has been established.

In a Tuesday English department meeting, Kohlman informed the department the trustees would not vote on construction this weekend, according to Heidt. The date of a trustee vote on the building plans has not been determined. 

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