Many of us have observed, with increasing concern, the gradual neglect, deterioration, and abuse of the buildings and grounds of the historic district now known as "Historice East Campus" of Western Michigan University.
In 1979, two of the grand old porticos on East Hall were demolished. Bulldozers had already leveled what one was a park-like setting on the east slope of Prospect Hill to provide space for a football practice field. When campus planners proposed to remove the north and south ends of the oldest building, East Hall, to create parking spaces and forever change the "Historic East Campus;" alarmed citizens organized The Friends of Historical East Campus. Dr. Dale Pattison, Western Michigan University, History Department Faculty emeriti was appointed to be the first Chairperson of The Friends of East Campus.
The Friends of Historical East Campus are dedicated to saving the original buildings on Prospect Hill, the birthplace of Western Michigan University. We seek to motivate the leadership of WMU to find productive uses for these buildings and to help secure the funds needed to restore them to their original appearance, with necessary updates, to serve as fully functional 21st century facilities. The renovation of Walwood Hall and the Little Theatre, on Oakland Drive, serve as examples of what the future could hold for the other building on East Campus.
This "Friends" group is diverse in makeup and includes Western alumni, faculty, staff, employees, and former students of the WMU campus school/high school, Vine Street neighborhood members, civic leaders, historians and friends of WMU. Together we share the goal to preserve, restore and revitalize the "Birthplace" of Western Michigan University.
The Friends of Historic East Campus Executive Committee meet on the third Friday of each month. Quarterly meeting include the Executive Committee and the full FOHEC Board. These open meetings are held at noon in the Commons Room, Walwood Hall, WMU.
The administration at WMU has welcomed The Friends of East Campus as a partner in the planning of the future use of East Campus. During former President, Dr. Elson Floyd's tenure at WMU he recognized the value and potential in saving the "birthplace" of WMU. He asked the "Friends" to assist in suggesting appropriate use for the buildings and to help raise money to pay for the renovation of these buildings. He directed maintenance staff to repair the most pressing needs of East Hall. This resulted in the following: down spouts have been adjusted to transfer water off from and away from the building structure, repairs have been made to prevent ice from forming on the outside of the structure, all damaged stair handrails have been repaired or replaced, and effort has been made to continually remove graffiti from the structure, and the heating system has been regulate to maintain a workable climate within the building.
The University's past president, Dr. Judith Bailey, was also supportive of the "Friends" goals. Unfortunately, due to the present economic condition in the state and at the university level, there is no money available to help in the preservation of East Campus. In September 2003, Dr. Bailey was invited to address the Friends of Historical East Campus. At that meeting she gave the "Friends" permission to seek private funding for the preservation and restoration of the East Hall.
The "Friends" are interested in working with the WMU Administration to see North Hall (the original library building on the East Campus) renovated to house the WMU Archives and Southwestern Michigan History Collection. The WMU — Archives and Regional History collection is currently located in the north wing of East Hall and this section is in desperate need of repair. We will continue to pursue the preservation for the other buildings on the East Campus.
In the fall of 2004. the Friends of Historic East Campus began a membership drive. We continue to seek people who have very strong feelings for preserving Western Michigan University's historic East Campus.
We recognize the economic challenges of achieving our ambitious goals but remain optimistic that his magnificent historical site and community resource can be saved for future generations.
This could be our last chance to save "Old East." Please join us in partnering with WMU to save East Campus.
WE MUST MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD.
THE BUILDINGS CANNOT SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.