Historic King Chapel getting elevator

Work will begin this fall to add an elevator addition near the southeast entrance to King Chapel, the historic centerpiece of Cornell College’s campus. The elevator is part of an ongoing renovation to the first building on campus named to the National Register of Historic places.

Workers have taken soil samples for the elevator’s foundation design, and work will start later this fall, according to Joel Miller, director of facility services. He said the elevator should be installed and operational by fall 2012.

The elevator project has been supported by two alumni: Charles Warden ’41 and Evelyn Steinway Spletter ’43.

Warden, a life trustee, gave $227,000 in honor of his wife, Ruth “Gussie” Ohlsen Warden ’41, who died in 2004. The elevator will be named after her.

Warden, who gave his gift during the college’s Extraordinary Opportunities Campaign, said he thought an elevator would make King Chapel, with its many steps, more accessible to alumni. And, he said, naming it in honor of his wife meant she would be remembered at the college they both loved.

“I wanted something tangible,” he said.

Spletter gave $100,000 in honor of her husband, Charles Spletter ’41. While at Cornell, her husband was friends with Warden, she said, and the couples traveled together often before Charles Spletter’s death in 1995.

“Our connection to Cornell goes back a long way,” she said.

It’s gone forward, as well, with two of her children graduating from Cornell: Joan Spletter Mattson ’70 and Richard Spletter ’72.

Cornell President Jonathan Brand said the dedication of Charles Warden and Evelyn Spletter to King Chapel is an inspiration to Cornellians. “Because of their contributions, we’re able to ensure that a building finished in 1882 remains a vital part of campus well into the 21st century,” he said.

The elevator project is part of a larger, $2.5 million renovation of King Chapel. In 2010 the main roof was repaired and the slate tiles were replaced with lighter, more durable composite tiles. In 2011 the carpet was replaced. Plans include replacing the roofs of each tower as well as further structural work to the Victorian gothic building.

King Chapel, which was built from limestone taken from what’s now Nature Park in Mount Vernon, has been the site of visits from luminaries such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Martin Luther King Jr., President William Howard Taft, Gloria Steinem and many others, as well as performances by John Denver, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Sonny Rollins and Joe Pass.

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