From his new office in Schott Hall, Marc Camille watched as the destruction started. Like a huge, mechanized, prehistoric carnivore, the red and white hydraulic shovel ripped into Dana Lodge, Walker Hall and Buschmann Hall with brutal efficiency, cracking beams, crushing brick and mortar, and shattering the summer air with the sounds of structural collapse.
In less than three hours, it was over. And when the dust and din drifted away, Camille, the University’s dean of admission, had an even clearer view of the University’s future—a future he says looks both impressive and inviting.
To advance that future, the three houses—once home to the University’s admission and financial aid offices—gave way this summer to what Camille calls “a new entrance to the campus.” In their place will be a parking lot, landscaped courtyard, fountain and wrought-iron gateway arch replete with the University crest.
The entrance will lead to a striking new home for the office of admission in the onetime cafeteria and chapel in Schott Hall. The office of financial aid also now resides in a renovated suite one floor down—the first time in recent memory that these two offices have been housed in the same building.
Aside from the pure practicality of that arrangement, Camille says the admission office’s granite-tiled entranceway, wood-paneled reception desk and waiting room—complete with comfortable furnishings, fireplace and plasma-screen television—provide a strong first impression for prospective students and their parents.
The rest of the facility reinforces this initial impact, as well. The former chapel has been converted into a presentation room with a surround-sound audio/visual system, theater seating, projection screen and suspended ceiling in the shape of an X.
“I’ve been on lots of college campuses and seen a lot of admission offices,” he says. “This will put us on par with anyone.”
Across Victory Parkway, the home of Xavier’s soccer teams received a facelift. The grass field was replaced with a new state-of-the-art artificial turf and the seating area expanded. The project, though, wasn’t done just for kicks. The worn playing surface was too delicate for anything but actual games, leaving the men’s and women’s teams to rent fields off campus for daily practice. The uneven grass and mud also made for slow drainage and expensive maintenance, not to mention dangerous playing, so given the choice between extensive reseeding and starting from scratch, the latter proved more economical. Also, students, intramural and club sports will have use of the new facility, which will be named for whomever funds the project.
Through the stone gateway into the main entrance of the University, guests are now greeted by a black, steel-and-glass guard house topped with a chrome spire. Beyond that, University Drive has been widened six feet to allow for improved parking. This change necessitated a new stone retaining wall facing Victory Parkway, changing what is perhaps the best-known view of the University. According to Bob Sheeran, associate vice president for facility management, this also will help eradicate the erosion and drainage problems that have plagued the hillside for years. In concert with this modification, workers installed an unbroken stretch of sidewalk, complete with new lighting, from the gateway to the Gallagher Center.
Standing at the top of the parking lot steps, just above the St. Francis Xavier statue, Sheeran, too, sees the future, and for the moment at least, it doesn’t include orange construction barrels. “I don’t expect we’ll see as many bricks and sticks these next several years,” he says. “But there will always be something going on.”
New Alumni Center in Historic Old Building
With it’s graceful, curving stairways, terrazzo-tile floors and two-story mural, the lobby of the University’s newly purchased alumni center creates a striking first impression. And that’s exactly what brothers J. Cromer and Willam O. Mashburn Jr. were after in 1937 when they enlisted Cincinnati architect John Henri Deeken to design the building, home to their new Coca-Cola bottling plant. The facility opened in 1938, and for the next 44 years it not only provided the region with Coca-Cola, but was a popular tourist destination and social center. Through the glass behind the receptionist’s desk, visitors watched ranks of Coke bottles pass in review as they wound their way through the assembly line.
The bottles are long gone, however, and today the art deco-style building is home to the University’s national alumni association, community building institute, physical plant and division of university relations.
The building has a storied history, though. It once boasted an employee barbershop on the second floor, showers for the labored Coke delivery drivers and a cafeteria. The original plans called for a revolving weather beacon in the building’s tower. But any use of the lights ended with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, for fear of providing a beacon for enemy attacks on the mainland, says J. Cromer Mashburn Jr., who eventually became chairman and CEO of the bottling company.
World events also left their mark on the lobby mural. When artist John F. Holmer painted the scene of events at Cincinnati’s Coney Island amusement park, he gave all the men in the mural Hitler-style moustaches.
The horrified Mashburns demanded the moustaches be removed. Holmer refused. Eventually, another artist did the cover-up, but the shadowy moustaches remain visible on close inspection.
The building changed hands in the early 1980s, and sank into disrepair. When Richard Rosenthal, then owner of F&W Publications, bought it and placed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, it took an 18-month restoration—at twice the purchase price—before his company could move in. The University bought the building from F&W in 2001 and began yet another extensive renovation that was completed this summer.