As Demolition Date Approaches, Residents Oppose Wooster Inn Replacement
WOOSTER – An empty lawn surrounds the Wooster Inn where 25 forest trees once stood.
They were shot in early April. Only the posts that once served as signs for the inn remain, but soon these too will fall with the building itself.
For local residents who want to see the Wooster Inn stay, the 11th hour is fast approaching.
Wooster Inn:College of Wooster to demolish iconic hostel, built in 1958, next month
Crews are due to demolish the 11,276 square foot structure on Monday, April 18, according to the College of Wooster, which owns the property.
Wooster resident Martha Bollinger and nearly 30 other concerned citizens opposed the demolition at the April 7 planning commission meeting.
“I live right across the street from the hostel and it’s so sad to see it slowly die,” Bollinger said during the public hearing. “I am so disappointed.”
With the structure a week away, some residents hope to save the Wooster Inn before it’s too late.
Historic preservation for a historic site?
Opened in 1958, the Wooster Inn is 64 years old. The building has witnessed a variety of events for the College of Wooster and the community the institution serves.
With such a long history, Wendy Barlow, who once worked for the Ohio Historical Preservation Office, suggested the site be made a state-protected historic landmark.
Opinion:Letter: Wooster Inn is an important icon for the city and should be saved
“It ticks all the boxes,” Barlow said at the planning commission meeting.
The building was donated by college administrator Robert Wilson in honor of his father, who taught math at the college from 1900 to 1907, according to a 1957 Wooster Voice article.
The finished architecture reflected Wilson’s home in White Plains, New York, and once opened, trustees stayed at the inn when traveling to Wooster.
To become a Historic Preservation Site, the Wooster Inn would have to meet the criteria established by the National Register of Historic Places.
The register states that a site must be associated with or contribute to events in American history, be associated with a significant individual, embody “distinguishing features” or provide significant historical or prehistoric information.
Other criteria include: the site is over 50 years old or the property has commemorative intent and historical significance.
For the full list of criteria, visit the National Register of Historic Places website.
Barlow also argued that the College of Wooster was placed in a historic historic district in the late 1900s for its historical significance, and that the Wooster Inn should follow suit.
Any alterations to signage, exteriors and site, demolition and construction of new buildings in this neighborhood must be approved by the Review and Design Board, according to the City of Wooster.
While such a neighborhood wouldn’t protect the inn, Barlow said, it would give it official historic recognition from the city.
“It’s a tragedy when you start taking the city out of the dress,” she said. “It’s a place where community and college have come together.”
What will replace the Wooster Inn?
Once demolished, the college plans to build 12 tennis courts on the zoned property as a conditional recreational use, according to preliminary development plans approved by the Wooster Planning Commission.
A 73-space parking lot will be built with two traffic entrances, said Douglas Drushal, a Wooster lawyer who presented the development plan.
“These courts will be slightly larger” than what is on Beall Avenue, Drushal said at the planning commission meeting. This will pave the way for potential long-term projects which could see the existing tennis courts replaced with another structure.
If completed, the new recreational property will have minimal lighting around the tennis courts for walkers and nearby restrooms.
Drushal said the facilities will only be used during the day and no lights will be installed on the tennis courts.
Providing a small buffer between East Wayne Avenue and the neighboring neighborhood, the facility will be set back 35 feet, he said.
Windshields on the north and south sides will provide a sense of privacy, obstructing the view from the tennis courts to the homes across the street.
Why is the Wooster Inn collapsing?
Drushal pointed out that the 12 proposed tennis courts are not the cause of the demolition.
The high cost of reopening the Wooster Inn and the inability to hire management capable of meeting financial obligations are the main reasons the structure is collapsing, College of Wooster spokespersons told the Daily Record.
Repairs were estimated at more than $4 million based on pre-pandemic prices and did not include cosmetic renovations.
The “significant capital improvements needed to keep the hostel running” were weighed by administrators against other infrastructure priorities such as “much needed investments” in student housing, said Melissa Anderson, director of communications and college marketing, to the Daily Record.
Trustees could not justify the expense incurred to undertake the project in light of other pressing needs on campus, according to board chair Sally Staley.
Once the preliminary development plan has been approved, the developers will go back to the drawing board to produce a final development plan, which will be sent back to the planning commission for approval.
Contact Bryce by email at [email protected]
On Twitter: @Bryce_Buyakie