Academic building falls; dining hall to rise from rubble

Gutted Keith Hall from behind Leonard and McElhaney halls, June 11, 2016. Photos by Ethan Brogan.

Gutted Keith Hall from behind Leonard and McElhaney halls, June 11, 2016. Photos by Ethan Brogan.

By Ethan Brogan

INDIANA — One of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s oldest buildings is being demolished after 77 years of housing the academic departments of special education, history, industrial and labor relations, political science, and continuing education.

Keith Hall, built in 1939, is falling to make room for yet another feeding facility, the North Dining Commons, as set out in the campus master plan and its revisions. The new facility will allow students to grab some grub on the opposite side of campus from the Crimson Café, which opened in 2014 on the south side. Folger Dining Hall re-opened in fall 2015 following a $13.7 million makeover.

The new north-side diner is scheduled to open during the 2017-2018 academic year. That’s when already-shuttered Foster Dining Hall is scheduled for demolition.

Keith Hall, on the other hand, fed minds — and in more than one dimension.

It was “the most haunted building on the campus,” English professor Laurel J. Black, faculty adviser to the Paranormal Society of IUP, told the student newspaper The Penn in 2013.

“We feel we have support to claim that Keith is haunted — some of it strong, some far more subjective,” professor Black wrote in a January email interview.

One IUP student recalled Keith in more temporal terms: It was sweltering.

“No matter how it was outside, Keith was always really frickin’ hot,” said junior humanities major Eric D. Smith, 21, in a June 10 telephone interview.

All-terrain forklift moves rubble outside Keith Hall, June 11, 2016.

All-terrain forklift moves rubble outside Keith Hall, June 11, 2016.

The venerable classroom building was named to honor Dr. John A. H. Keith (1869-1931), a Harvard man. He served as the ninth principal of the Indiana Normal School, as IUP was known at the time. Keith later was appointed state superintendent of public instruction.

The demolition of Keith Hall and construction of the North Dining Commons carry a combined price tag of $18.1 million, according to the master plan.

Ethan C. Brogan, a senior majoring in journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Pittsburgh.

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