People’s column

College is failing with Fenner house


The Fenner house, how should we think of it? Constructed in 1868, this house is a significant part of historic Fredonia. Going north to south Fredonia to Dunkirk Central Avenue is lined with these historic homes. Each home represents a significant history to our past. Without seeing, hearing and visiting our past we are at risk of becoming insignificant in our present and future.

The Fenner house was acquired by the state in 1964 by eminent domain. It was purchased by the New York state construction fund as part of a large track of land surrounding the college. The college is stating that the Fenner house needs significant repair and that the repairs made after a fire in the ’70s was done from inferior materials and labor. Twenty-five or more years after initial repairs certainly suggest there should have been some routine maintenance through the years. Also that heavy file cabinets on the second floor have weakened the structure. I know of at least two homes on Central Avenue that have reinforced their structure with steel beams.

Any home — either new or old — requires significant maintenance. It is the school’s responsibility to maintain all their buildings. The university must be a caretaker for their buildings. There will never be enough funding to do everything but certainly the university can prioritize these significant structures. One hundred years from now no one will talk about how beautiful the science building is but they will notice the design and beauty of the Fenner house, the Alumni house or the Foundation house. Blending both old and new is what will distinguish Fredonia University.