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Heating Plant II

Heating Plant II 2.jpg

Opened: 1941
Closed: 1990
Cost: $125,000

The building that would eventually become West Hall was originally built as a heating plant (seen along the railroad tracks, with a smokestack, in the image to the right), a replacement for the first plant built on campus in 1905. Planning for a replacement heating plant began in the late 1930s, and in May 1941 the State approved $125,000 for the project. The building would be constructed in a corner of the girls' athletic field, east of the railroad tracks, to facilitate the delivery of fuel. Designed by Roger Allen of Grand Rapids and built by the Miller-Davis Company of Kalamazoo, the building featured a 150-foot smokestack. Construction began in the summer of 1941. The new plant was tied into the existing tunnel system, although crews had to build several new tunnels, including the addition of a large tunnel in front of Keeler Union and Warriner Hall. By the fall of 1942, the new plant was up and running. A $270,000 renovation was carried out in 1949, which included the addition of a large new boiler and water softeners, as well as the construction of a new stack with an economizer to maximize efficiency. The new heating plant remained in operation until the early 1960s.

The building in which the plant was housed was designed with limited office space and Facilities Management occupied part of the building since the 1940s. In 1951, garage space was added to the facility. When the new Central Energy Facility was constructed in the early 1960s, the boilers were removed and the old heating plant was remodeled into more office space, as well as maintenance garages and storage for Facilities Management. The complex, which consisted of the large building that had been the physical plant as well as a collection of smaller garages and sheds (the "sheepsheds" left over from a postwar housing community on the site), remained the home of Facilities Management and the Motor Pool until the 1980s.

With the completion of a new Combined Services Building in 1990, Facilities Management was relocated to the east side of campus and the old heating plant building was left vacant. The University demolished most of the building at a cost of $340,000, leaving only the northern end of the structure standing. This building, which became known as West Hall, became the new home of CMU Media Relations, University Communications or UComm today. Media Relations had been housed in 114 Rowe Hall, but that office complex had become too cramped for the department's purposes. Although University officials discussed moving Media Relations into the space formerly occupied by the bowling alley in the University Center, it was ultimately decided to utilize the newly vacated space in West Hall. Renovation of the office complex cost $20,000 and was complete by December 1990. The new office space provided more room and privacy for the four departments of Media Relations—the news bureau, publications, photography, and sports information services.