Kohler Hall, with its colorful past and structural issues, slated for demolition


Jesse Kucewicz

Kohler Hall, which as recently as last year housed 80 students, is currently “mothballed” and is expected to be demolished next summer.

From tales of the ghost of a little girl and haunted underground tunnels that lead to the chapel, Kohler Hall has long been a colorful part of Baldwin Wallace’s history.

And, up until this year, the building was also home to approximately 80 students during each school year. Now, with the addition of the new Front Street Residence Hall, many having been wondering what the plan is for Kohler.

Currently, the residence hall is sitting empty as the university made the decision to “mothball” the building for the 2018/2019 school year.

“We had been thinking about doing this for some time,” said Richard Fletcher, senior vice president. “The building is old, very old, expensive to maintain, and there are some structural issues that have been a problem over the past few years.”

While the exterior of Kohler resembles that of the campus’s other historic sandstone buildings, such as Dietsch and Marting, the structure is made of brick that around 1910 was covered with cement. This was done in an effort to achieve the same look as sandstone.

It has been discovered that moisture has been collecting behind the cement and is causing the brick to disintegrate, Fletcher said. Heather Rudge, a historic preservation architect, was brought in to look at Kohler and see if the building could be saved, Fletcher said. Despite her role’s focus on preservation, she determined the building was not salvageable.

“She comes in with a bias to try and preserve and protect, and we wanted her candid assessment of the building,” said Fletcher. “She gave us that and said that it’s just not worthy of sinking money into because of the structural problems.”

Rudge is considered a highly regarded preservation specialist, he said, and has worked with the university in the past. With her assessment, the university came to the conclusion that Kohler would be torn down “possibly next summer,” said Fletcher.

“I think we have done a very good job over the years of preserving our old buildings,” said Fletcher. “Due to the major structural issues, Kohler is just not one that it makes sense to preserve.”

Fletcher said he knows that there will be some backlash from the community regarding this decision, but he hopes
that people will take the expert’s opinion into account.

Over the years Kohler has had a number of uses, from being an orphanage in the early 1860s to its most recent use as
a dorm for BW students, particularly students of the BW Conservatory. The history behind the building, as well as the frightening tales that students tell each other, are reasons that some may be mournful over the fate of Kohler.

“It’s sad that it has to go. My daughter lived here when she attended Baldwin Wallace over 10 years ago, and I totally get that people are going to be upset, but being on the other side and seeing the issues Kohler has, I understand it,” said Cindy Gornik, facilities maintenance coordinator.

Mold in the building and cracks in the walls that let bugs in were just a few of the issues that Gornik said were problems when her daughter was a resident.

“There was a crack in the floor that we would stuff paper down into because of the centipedes that would crawl up her wall,” she said.

Even with the vast amount of issues that Kohler has, some in the campus community, like university Archivist Kieth Peppers, wish that Kohler could remain standing.

“I know it’s in bad shape and you have to outweigh the value of preserving it over the cost,” he said, “but it’s an interesting building with an interesting past that I hope they preserve something of it.”