Centre resourcefully adapts old buildings for new uses

While Centre College has seen much campus construction during the past several years, it also actively participates in “adaptive reuse” of its structures: reconfiguring buildings to suit them for new purposes, making the most out of the College’s existing resources and demonstrating the sustainability perspective in campus operations.

“By reusing existing buildings instead of demolishing and building new structures,” says professor of chemistry Preston Miles, “materials are saved, landfills aren’t filled and we preserve part of the institution’s history.”


Chowan is a 20,000-square-foot facility built in summer 2008 to serve as a temporary dining facility for the campus while the new campus center was being constructed. The Campus Center opened in October 2009, and the multipurpose Chowan was retooled during the summer and fall of 2010 to accommodate two tennis courts, a third playing space for volleyball, etc., while remaining a space for large-scale meetings, catered events and conferences.

[Fun fact: the name “Chowan” is a play off of Cowan, the name of the old campus dining hall and also the name of the main dining area in the new campus center. A campus-wide contest was held to name the temporary facility.]

The Navy Building

The Navy Building originally served as a Navy recruiting office, then the College’s business office, and then it housed Centre’s Parsons Student Health Center. When the health center moved into its new offices in Sutcliffe Hall after its renovation in 2005, the Navy Building became known as the Student Center for Collaborative Science Research and housed auxiliary laboratories and research facilities for academics. With the recent completion of the expansion/renovation of Young Hall (Centre’s main science academic facility), the Student Center for Collaborative Science Research moved into Young. And just this month, the campus post office and the Document Services Center packed up and moved into the Navy Building.

Wiseman Hall

Wiseman Hall was built in 1940 as the first addition to Centre in 25 years and was renovated in 1992. In 1940, the construction of Wiseman allowed all first-year students at the time to live on campus. Now, located on the first floor of the building are the registrar and diversity education offices. In summer 2010, the demolition of the International House allowed for another repurposing of Wiseman: 14 beds were moved onto a newly configured third floor. This provided a more desirable space for students than did the International House (that contained nine beds), which was one of the least energy efficient buildings on campus. The renovation of the third floor of Wiseman includes isoprene insulation and is expected to improve the overall efficiency of the entire building. Also, there is now a green space with benches and plants on the former site of the International House.

Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall was built in 1915 and is named for John Todd Stuart, Class of 1826 (the famous alum who helped set Abraham Lincoln on his own path to extraordinary success). The building housed the Centre bookstore and a coffee shop/cafe from 1992-2005. Before that, it served as a private residence, a fraternity house and a funeral home. It now serves as a residence hall for upperclassmen. In 2007, the Kentucky Historical Society dedicated a historical highway marker honoring Stuart, which is in front of Stuart Hall.

Old Centre

Perhaps the College’s adaptive reuse champion is Old Centre, located in the middle of the campus. Completed in 1820, Old Centre is one of the oldest college facilities in continuous use in America and was built for the mere sum of $10,000. It currently serves as the main administrative facility, housing the offices of the president, vice president for academic affairs and vice president for college relations; it also contains meeting rooms and a classroom.

This wasn’t always so: In the summer of 1862 Confederate forces launched an invasion of Kentucky, which resulted in the state’s bloodiest conflict, the Battle of Perryville (almost 1,500 killed and around 5,500 wounded). The retreating Confederates reached Danville by late September. The Confederate army used Old Centre as a hospital for injured and sick soldiers. They were later dispersed or captured by the victorious Union forces.

With the construction of Old Main in 1872 as the College’s main academic building, Old Centre was converted to dormitory space.

In 1894, Old Centre also became the home of Centre’s law school that operated until 1912. During World War I, the building was outfitted as a mess hall and barracks rooms to accommodate 120 residents of the Students’ Army Training Corps. During World War II the 20th College Training Detachment of the Army Air Corps occupied the campus, using Old Centre as its headquarters.

It became clear in the 1980s that Old Centre needed extensive remodeling and renovation. In 1990, under President Michael F. Adams, a Save-Old-Centre drive was launched and renovation begun. On Oct. 11, 1991, Old Centre was rededicated.

Old Centre remains the College’s signature building and is a hub of administrative activity. It is Kentucky’s oldest continuously operating academic facility.

By |2010-12-23T15:14:21-05:00December 23rd, 2010|News Archive|