It took 128 years, but the original construction plans for Ambrose Hall finally may be completed this year.
An ambitious exterior renovation of the building that has been central to a St. Ambrose education since 1885 may include a steeple clock. The timepiece apparently was called for in the original blueprints but never was installed.
"It certainly appears a clock was planned," said Mike Poster, vice president for finance at St. Ambrose. "There is even a timer that can be attached to the bell."
In reality, Poster said work begun this spring on both Ambrose and LeClaire halls has started the clock on the next half century of the historic buildings' steadfast service to St. Ambrose.
"We are really talking about giving these buildings the next 50 years of their lives," Poster said. "This will allow us to come in and do major work to the inside sometime in the future. We don't want to do the interior until we know we have a tight envelope."
Plans for wholesale interior renovations are only in the talking stage, but ideally a modernized Ambrose Hall would become an academic centerpiece in the near future, Poster said.
LeClaire Hall would become the university's new administrative center. Opened in 1916, it originally housed the school's auditorium, swimming pool and gymnasium. The physical plant was moved there after the PE Center was opened in 1983. Those operations will move next fall to the current location of the university bookstore and coffee shop on Harrison Street after the bookstore is moved this summer to the Rogalski Center.
By fall, the coffee shop will be part of a new café style Beehive in the lower portion of Ambrose Hall. "We want to get the Beehive reinvigorated again," Poster said of a meeting space that will serve pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads by day and become a student lounge by night. "We want it to be a place where students can hang out."
The exterior renovation could be finished as early as December. That includes replacing windows in both buildings, some of which may be more than a century old; replacing sandstone with limestone on the lower portions of Ambrose Hall; replacing crumbling brick and deteriorating mortar on both buildings; and replacing the roof on LeClaire.
Work on the outside of Ambrose also will include removing false mansard roofing and returning the central tower to the way it looked in 1885, with a working bell that will be rung on special occasions, Poster said.