As students moved into their dorms this August, professors carted their books from Sunset Cottage, across the West Quad construction sight to their new home in English Cottage. Keithley House and English Cottage, the new English buildings, are set to be completed by the end of September as part of the first installment of the West Quad Project.
Project Manager Jerry Kelly ’96 said that English Cottage, the wooden house closest to Lentz House, is in its final stages of construction. “We’ve been working six-day weeks for months to get this building done and to get that one [done],” he said, referring to English Cottage and Keithley House respectively. “[Keithley’s] about 70 percent done, so we’re gonna keep pushing hard until we have them both wrapped up.”
While English Cottage will be composed entirely of faculty offices, Keithley House will hold two seminar rooms, replacing the classrooms previously housed in Sunset Cottage. This arrangement is not coincidental: Keithley House was designed to emulate the historical home of English at Kenyon. “The original plan was they were gonna knock [Sunset] down and replace it with [Keithley],” Kelly said.
Sunset Cottage has been a staple of the Kenyon College English department since 1978, when the English Department transferred its offices from Nu Pi Kappa on the third floor of Ascension Hall to Sunset.
Throughout the years, it has faced a multitude of structural and functional complications, particularly accessibility issues. Despite these obstacles, the Board of Trustees said its long-term use is still in discussion, according to a Nov. 2017 Collegian article.
Keithley House will mirror many of Sunset’s structural elements.
“They wanted to echo Sunset Cottage in certain ways, with the type of brick and with the back porches,” Kelly said. “It’s kind of an updated, more modern version.”
Kelly said there were some challenges with imitating Sunset’s design, especially in regards to the masonry. Because Sunset’s bricks have been sandblasted and painted over so many times, they are nearly impossible to recreate.
“What [the brick masons] said literally to me was, ‘We can’t do work that sh-tty,’” Kelly said. “So what we’ve done, the compromise is, to find bricks that are intentionally made to look [old]. They’re brand-spankin’-new, but they’re made to look old.”
As for the fate of Kenyon’s most beloved home for readers and writers, it’s a matter of renovation and refurbishment. “They’ll have quite a bit of work to do to it to bring it up to code and bring it up to date,” Kelly said of the 162-year-old building.
In the meantime, Kelly hopes Keithley House will become the Sunset for future generations of Kenyon students.
“[There are] a lot of people, a lot of companies involved, and we’re trying to build buildings that will last for 100 years,” Kelly said. “This is Kenyon College, so we really should be shooting for 200 years.”