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Oct. 28, 2010 Volume 32, No. 10

Historic cornerstone fits just fine in Jesse Hall rotunda


SOLID SUPPORT From left, Hoke Eichelberger, Mark Morris and Doug Wallace of Campus Facilities prepare to mount the MU cornerstone onto a new display, which was assembled in the General Services Building before its move to Jesse Hall. The cornerstone was originally erected in old Academic Hall in 1840. Rob Hill photo


MU staff help elevate artifact’s prominence

Perhaps the most delicate task of building a display for MU’s cornerstone belonged to Doug Wallace. After his Campus Facilities co-workers spent more than a month on the structure’s woodworking and welding, Wallace had to drill four rods into the 1840 cornerstone before the historical artifact was lowered into its new place of honor. 

Although Wallace, senior mason, says he wasn’t concerned about the stone being too fragile to withstand the drilling, that doesn’t mean others weren’t a little nervous. After all, in his hands was a piece of university history even older than the Columns. Would the stone crack? Would the steel frame support the weight of the 900-pound stone? A small crowd gathered to observe Wallace at work.

“It was different for me,” says Wallace, who’s been with Campus Facilities-Planning, Design and Construction for 10 years. “While I was drilling holes into the stone, there were all these cameras flashing.”

The cornerstone display, which was unveiled in the Jesse Hall rotunda during an Oct. 23 ceremony, was a collaborative project for which Wallace and Campus Facilities staffers played an integral role. 

“This was a little more high-profile than most of our projects,” says Mark Morris, master welder. “We have a variety of projects, but this was an unusual request because of the age and nature of the stone. It was extremely fragile, so we had to ensure there were no mistakes.”

In 1840, the cornerstone was erected in old Academic Hall, which caught fire on Jan. 9, 1892. In 1915, the preserved stone was moved into the stone gate north of Francis Quadrangle at Eighth and Elm streets, where it was largely overlooked by students, alumni and passersby. 

Tom Schultz, BJ ’56, MU development director, spearheaded the effort to elevate the cornerstone’s prominence. He raised funds to have the stone removed and a display case constructed so the stone could reside in the Jesse Hall rotunda. Work began in November 2009 when contractors with Mid-Continental Restoration Co. of Fort Scott, Kan., cut the cornerstone from the gate. 

During the spring 2010 semester, students in Assistant Professor So-Yeon Yoon’s architectural design studio course submitted proposed designs for the display. Campus Facilities employees created a construction plan based on the winning design by Shawn Browning, architectural studies major from Kirkwood, Mo. The plans called for materials, proportions and a stain color that would match Jesse Hall’s interior.

“A lot of thought and care was put into making sure that the final product fit in with its surroundings, not only by us but also by the students,” says Kevin Meinhardt, design services manager.

Hoke Eichelberger, senior carpenter, did most of the woodworking on the cypress display, which features plaques explaining the history of the cornerstone and recognizing the donors. He says the work required wasn’t more extensive than the average project, but knowing that the final product would occupy Jesse Hall for decades was an honor.

“It wasn’t that difficult, but it made you proud to work at the university,” Eichelberger says. “It was a fun job to be a part of history and being told how old the stone is.”

Morris, who welded the display’s steel frame, says there was pressure to ensure that every measurement was precise. For example, the height of the display, which includes an acrylic cap, was configured so that viewers can see the Columns when looking over the cornerstone. 

Others staffers involved with the project include Mark Hoerstkamp, architectural associate I; Ryan Stiers, junior architectural studies major and Campus Facilities student worker; Terry Kilburn, senior painter; B.J. Kempf, construction supervisor; and Kevin Steward, special services supervisor.

After the display was constructed and put together in the General Services Building, staffers moved it into Jesse Hall on the morning of Oct. 16. It remained covered until its unveiling during a spirited Homecoming reception.

“This has been an entire campus production from concept to finish, and that’s important,” Chancellor Brady J. Deaton said at the event. “This is a tremendous display of the talents we have in all components of this university.”

Several of the craftsmen attended the event but said the credit really should be given to Schultz, whose dedication made the project possible.

“It was real neat to work with Tom,” Wallace says. “Without him, it wouldn’t have been the same.”

— Stephanie Detillier