By Jeff Guy

jguy@kiowacountysignal.com

HAVILAND – Founders' Hall, one of the first buildings to go up at Barclay College when the institution was founded nearly 100 years ago had to be torn down in 1998 because the state fire marshal condemned it and it was deemed “structurally unsound.”

Over the years the building had become informally known as “Music Hall” because the music department was located there. But after the structure was destroyed, the music department was relegated to the basement of the administration building, Phillips Hall.

At the time, administration thought the move would be temporary. But nearly 20 years later, worship director Jared Ross works in the building, directing a choir in a room he said “wasn't really made for singing.”

Ross believes, however, that the college will achieve its goal of having built a 26,000 square-foot fine arts center when Barclay College celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2017. The building is to be state-of-the-art while having deep connections to the history, tradition and origins of the college.

Much of the college's history can be traced to Robert and Minnie Bell Ross. Great-great-grandparents to Jared Ross, the couple migrated to Kansas from Missouri in the 1880s. Devout in their faith, they wanted to send their children to the Friends Academy, a private Quaker high school in Haviland.

Robert and Minnie Bell Ross “served prominently in the community and the life of this institution,” Barclay College President Royce Frazier said.

The Ross family was instrumental in establishing the college, originally called Kansas Bible Training School, in 1917. Since that time, more than 100 descendants of Robert and Minnie Bell Ross have attended the college.

Around five years ago, the Ross family donated a $1.5 million gift to Barclay College to build a new fine arts facility.

“This one really has gained our attention, this opportunity,” Frazier said.

Pledges and cash donations have been coming in privately over the past few years but the college's fund raising campaign will soon go public, Ross said.

“In January we're going to hit it hard,” he said.

Around $3.5 million has been raised so far. The college has one year — until October of 2016 — to raise another $3.1 million in cash and pledges in order to receive a challenge grant of $750,000 from the Mabee Foundation, a charitable non-profit corporation out of Delaware.

“We'll break ground shortly after,” Frazier said.

Ross said, “Our contractor said he can put it in the ground in 11 months.”

The entire project will be around $7.5 million.

“For students in the music department, it will give them a top-notch place to hone their creativity and present their skills and gifts to others,” Ross said.

The department's present environment in Phillips Hall is a building constructed in 1947. An area that until the 1960s had been a cafeteria was divided into three small classrooms, now cramped and decaying.

Performances at the college currently take place either at the Friends Church or on a stage in the gymnasium of the Hockett Auditorium building.

“This gym's not made for musical performances,” Ross said. “The acoustics are horrible.”

The auditorium in the new building will seat around 580 people, Ross said. There will also be a smaller recital hall that can stage more intimate performances as well as being used as a classroom. There will be a piano and a voice laboratory, which can also be used as classrooms. The lobby of the building will be available for rental by the public for such things as family reunions and wedding receptions.

A new building is “needed badly, not just by the music department, but the whole campus,” Ross said.

Classes unrelated to the arts could be taught in the new fine arts center, Ross said. Currently, the college is cramped for space in providing some classes. A class in Old Testament is taught in the basement of the college library.

Ross walked in a field over the spot where the Ross Fine Arts Center will go up. West Hall and the Friends Academy, which closed in 1968, used to occupy the grounds, but were torn down in the early 2000s because they were found to be structurally unsound.

The college has been working with PBA Architects, out of Wichita. The floor plan is chalked out over the field and Ross can identify which drawn-out rooms will be the sites of offices, classrooms, auditoriums and other areas. Later, from his office on the second floor of Phillips Hall, Ross showed a series of blueprint copies of the planned arts center.

At 26,000 square feet, Frazier said the planned building is “definitely a step up.”

Ross said, “It will be mind-blowing, I think, at first.”