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Dec 6, 2016

Renovation Set for Historic Hall at Highlands University

Rodgers Hall, Courtesy Highlands University

An inspiring example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style that graced a number of public structures in the 1930s is on the verge of a significant renovation on the Las Vegas campus of Highlands University.

“It’s really a beautiful building,” says Highlands President Sam Minner of the Rodgers Hall, which is located on the southeast end of the campus at 803 National Avenue.

“It gets a lot of traffic with people in town, tourists, people who are interested in architecture,” he continues.

That interest will undoubtedly increase once the $4.5 million renovation of the historic structure is completed.

Built in 1937 as a Works Progress Administration project, the Rodgers Hall originally served the school as a library, and for that reason remains a sturdy structure.

“It was designed to accommodate stacks of books and to support that weight,” notes Sean Weaver, the director of university relations at Highlands, “so its unique in the sense that it is so solid.”

Since the library’s mid-1960s move to another location, Rodgers Hall, named in honor of former Highlands dean and renowned mathematician Thomas Rodgers, has housed any number of administrative offices, providing space for both President Minner, several vice-presidents, the school provost, and the department of human resources.

For that reason, it remains a busy place on campus, with dozens of people coming and going all day long.

But school officials have long been worried about the building’s infrastructure, noting that it’s the things that are not typically seen that cause the greatest concern.

“We’re worried about what’s going on behind the walls,” says Sylvia Baca, facilities director at Highlands.

“At this point the plumbing needs to be completely gutted out and redone,” she says.

“And we also need to install a new HVAC system,” Baca continues, noting that Rodgers Hall currently has “no centralized cooling system. Plus, the heating system runs on steam, and we have to remove that because some of that steam is detrimental in terms of what it can do to a building.”

Funding for the project is coming from the successful passage in November of General Obligation Bond C, which altogether is targeting some $131 million in college and university capital construction projects across New Mexico.

“We are basing our project entirely on the $4.5 million Bond C funding,” notes Minner. “There could be some particular future funding streams for some particular features of the building, but the renovation funding will all come from Bond C.”

But that funding is not an automatic, over-night thing, adds Minner.

“We can’t do anything on the building until the bonds are sold next spring,” he says. “Then there will be a drawing stage, deciding what form the renovations will take.”

After that begins a complex process of moving offices out of the Rodgers Hall to other locations on campus to make way for the work.

“That is one of my challenges,” laughs Baca. “We want to make sure we find new homes for all of the many different kinds of functions that go on inside of Rodgers.”

The actual renovation work is slated to begin most likely in 2018 and should take around 10 months to complete.

That work will also include the installation of a new roof and energy-efficient windows, as well as making the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We are also looking at the possibility of having a reading room,” says Minner. “This is one of the entrances to the campus, so we may highlight some of the historical artifacts of the campus in a part of the building.”

Historic Photograph showing part of the Moylan Mural in Rodgers Hall, Courtesy Highlands University

Besides being a WPA building, Rodgers Hall is also graced with a sweeping mural by famed New Mexico artist Lloyd Moylan. Painted in 1938, the mural stretches from the main stairwell of the building to its second floor.

“That is something that we will obviously be protecting and taking care of,” says Baca.

The Rodgers Hall work will come in the wake of the successful renovation of the Highland’s Trolley Building, a project paid for through a combination of previous general obligation funding, as well as a state legislative appropriation.

Altogether, the Trolley renovation cost $8.3 million, transforming a historic structure into use for the school’s Media Arts and Technology Department.

 

By Garry Boulard

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