Remodeling Turns Publishing House into Home

By Sarah Roy

Elm Staff Writer

Summer marked the traditional dusting away of cobwebs, and, on this particular occasion, a dusting on of colors. The Publications House was given a healthy facial – from the inside out.

The axis of all that is printed (and literary), the charming little abode has served since 2009 as a haven for student editors, writ- ers, photographers, and graphic designers to assemble their creations for presentation to the campus eye. The Elm, “The Collegian,” and “The Pegasus” are painstakingly pasted together behind these enigmatic walls.

The center of student publications has come a long way, having served humble beginnings in the cramped Reid Hall basement, with such disarming setbacks as mold-induced health issues and after-house access limitations. It is difficult to believe that the Sear’s House, as it was originally dubbed, arrived on campus in assemble-yourself pieces. A kit purchased from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue around 1930, the dated bungalow was born in segments on the lawn – but has been built up, physically and metaphorically, by the determined spirit of Washington College contributors.

When the uncomfortable dorm residence proved an unsuitable environment to collect together the recorded life and times of WC, Dean of Students Mela Dutka stepped in to relocate the campground to the Sears House in 2009. The Sears House was lit-erally a breath of fresh air: but some felt that while the inhabitants embodied a welcoming area, they were functioning in a not-quite-cozy space.

“The Sears House was a much bigger space, and in a way was more endearing, but it was just not technologically suited for a publications office,” said Elm Editor- in-Chief Alice Horner.

“It really was a collaborative effort of so many people,” said Horner. College Relations staff went on numerous trips to Ikea, and spent many afternoons putting together tables, lights, and chairs. OIT also contributed their time in installing the new computers and programs.

Dan McCloskey, editor of The Collegian, said that the Sears House “makes you want to live there.” Though given the option of paint input, McCloskey instead chose to focus on the incoming equipment – most importantly, assuring the new computers were up and running. He remarked upon the opportunity to frame and hang posters Lit-house style, and that the room “feels official.”

McCloskey was also appreciative of the bookshelf, which has unexpectedly assisted in his compilations. “It’s a weird use, but helpful for tentative spreads. I can set up a page by page thing without it all scattering,” he said.

Former WC First Lady and textile artist, Katherine Trout, collaborated with student editors in regards to the color palette. “Plum dandy,” “Chestertown buff,” and “spruce tint” were among the vibrant yet professional, “out-of-the-box” hues selected.

There is more still to come. Reid Raudenbush, director of Physical Plant, who allotted time to schedule the discarded furniture removal, has discussed the possibility of security lights at the front and side entrances to increase safety and visibility. Horner mentioned that it would be especially helpful to The Elm staff who often spent late nights working, not departing until 4 a.m. or later.

As far as drawing an increased amount of attention to the area of journalism, Kay MacIntosh, Director of Media Relations, called it: “A step in the right direction.” She pointed out that the renovation was not a refurbishing, but rather a “cosmetic makeover.” She believed the goal was to create the kind of place that looked good enough to discuss journalism, an in- timate setting where staff can meet with students to converse about what kind of material they wanted to see or read.

Landskroener described the transformation as “much more inviting, more homey; more artsy, in a way.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the end result,” said Horner. “It’s not only a wonderful environment for cranking out a newspaper, but I’m proud to say ‘I work in the Sears House.’”

The white walls reminded the staff of a mental hospital, and it wasn’t a place I was proud of. It felt like campus publications were pushed to the edge of campus in an even more neglected house,” said Horner.

Meredith Davies Hadaway, Vice President for College Relations and Marketing, relates her take on the prerenovation atmosphere: “It was dark, spooky . . . a little shabby.”

Emmy Landskroener, editor of “The Pegasus”, claims that the building “used to be really drab. You could tell it was old.” As for her expectations, she states: “I wanted our office to be inviting, calming, and not feel like a closet.”

The project started around mid-June, and was officially finished at the beginning of September, said Horner. All of the common room furniture was replaced and new pieces introduced, including a plush couch and funky lamps. There was a table added to the “pizza room” as students have taken to calling it, as well as computers: one for each publication with net- working, for ease of file and photo sharing.

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