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JIM: An Ornament to the Town

Inspired by Larry Smith's photo, 'Summer Work at Lindsey Wilson,' Jim has compiled a chronology of the the now L.R. McDonald Administration Building, which is now also the site of the V.P. Henry Auditorium, where the TheatreFest Series is drawing new crowds to Arbor Vitae Hill this summer and where, tonight, at 7pmCT, Sunday, June 30, 2013 Robert Brock will portray Mark Twain. The building has endured the test of time, Jim notes, and cites a prophecy from the sisters Trabue which foretold the buildings long life as an icon for the college and the community
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Mr. George Fletcher would proud to know "his" building, now called the L.R. McDonald Administration Building on the campus of Lindsey Wilson College, has well endured the test of time. Work started on this edifice one hundred and ten years ago -- June, 1903.

Plans for a Methodist Training School in south-central Kentucky first were brought up at the Annual Conference in the early autumn of 1899, and after a series of close calls (the Educational Committee of the Conference originally selected Burkesville as the site) and delays, Columbia was chosen as the location of the school during the 1902 Annual Conference, held in Columbia.

By mid-December, 1902, the Educational Board had "selected and bought from C.S. Harris the Arbor Vitae Hill, the most commanding point in the town," paying the princely sum of $1,500 for some eight or nine acres, an area deemed at the time to be "ample territory for all the buildings and play grounds needed..."

The next few months saw little apparent progress but behind the scenes, many individuals were actively canvassing Adair and surrounding counties, raising the monies required to meet the financial obligations of the project.

Come May, 1903, work finally began on the hill. The old house located thereon was sold, "brick and stone excepted," with the proviso that it had to be moved within 30 days; Mr. George Fletcher of Leitchfield was hired as general contractor; and "Revs. Browder and Lyon, J.R. Hindman, the architect and the local building committee, of this place, located the spot and set the pegs, last Thursday [May14th] where the main building will be built."

By month's end, Mr. Fletcher had arrived in town and several laborers and teams of horses were at work, and Mr. W.T. McFarland had been hired "as foreman in the excavation for the school building." The News, in speaking of the latter gentleman, stated, "He is a good man, a true Methodist and we feel certain that the work will be well done." Mr. McFarland, an accomplished stone mason, did indeed put to good use his skill and experience, forming the building's foundation from the stone donated by the sisters Trabue -- the Misses Tillie, Mary, and Lou -- from the rock quarry on Willow Glen, their farm out Greensburg Road.

Plans called for the classroom building to be finished by September 10, 1903, with the school to open on the 15th, but as the Scottish Ploughboy so eloquently put it, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley," as by early September, completion remained months away. However, about this time (early September) the structure was far enough along for the News to comment "the building is an ornament to the town and its inside architecture could not be surpassed for school purposes. The entire cost of the building, ground and equipment will approximate $13,000." (It wasn't until some weeks later that construction began on the dormitory building, the News of October 21 reporting "the contract has been let to Mr. Fletcher to be completed by January first.")

With calendar year 1903 rapidly coming to close, the workmen were pushed hard to get the building finished enough for classes to begin on January 4, 1904. Come mid December, the paper commented that
"The furnace is complete and two firemen at work, one for the day and one for the night and it will be the hottest college for three weeks ever known in old Kentucky. The intensity of the heat will do the work of an entire summer in drying the walls. Seventeen stoves are in blast in the dormitory and by the first of January it will be dry from foundation to attic."
Duane Bonifer, in "Founding of Lindsey Wilson College," (updated May 2000) noted that "according to college officials 'before the carpenters and painters could get out of the building, pupils from Adair and surrounding counties began to pour into the dormitory until 222 had registered for the first session,'" a number far exceeding an earlier estimate of about 100 students by January 15th.

In what may well be the most prophetic sentence ever printed in the News, the December 24, 1902 edition boldly stated, scarcely before the ink had dried on the deed to Arbor Vitae, that
"We feel certain that when that hill is adorned with a beautiful building, when the school begins to show its worth and influence in this town and country that every one who has contributed will feel proud to know that he is a party to its existence."
In the ensuing fivescore and ten years, the L.R. McDonald Administration Building has undergone expansion and extensive renovations, but still it stands in quiet dignity, a testament to those who believed enough to procure the school for Columbia; to those who kept it going, sometimes at the cost of great personal sacrifice; and to all those along the way who have helped elevate it to the growing, vibrant center of education it is today. An ad placed in the News by the sisters Trabue in early 1910 for stone from their quarry contained a great deal more literal and metaphorical truth than they ever could have imagined: "Walls built of this rock never fall."< (Inspired by Larry Smith's "Summer Work at Lindsey Wilson" photo Larry Smith's "Summer Work at Lindsey Wilson.

This story was posted on 2013-06-30 05:55:17
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Scenic Adair Co., KY: Summer Work at Lindsey Wilson

2013-06-28 - 210 Lindsey Wilson Street, Columbia, KY - Photo by Larry Smith, The WAVE, FM 92.7 radio. Lindsey Wilson College is revered for the beauty of its campus - and it has never looked better than the summer of 2013. Changes, improvements, and constant maintenance have been the order of the day, especially following the arrival of President John Begley, who made the "Brass Rail" on the steps of the L.R. McDonald Administration Building on the college's A.P. White Campus, a symbol for the institution and one to be copied by the rest of the community. President Bill Luckey has built on that tradition. This season the campus has been getting nifty cosmetic changes for the inaugural TheatreFest. "Perfect Wedding" will be performed tonight and tomorrow night, Friday-Saturday, June 28-29, 2013, at 7pmCT each evening, in the newly renovated V.P. Henry Auditorium inside the administration building, above.
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