BLOOMINGTON — The English House, a 1911 red-brick Prairie Style residence and home to Illinois Wesleyan University’s English Department for more than 40 years, will close this summer.
“To reduce the need for costly renovations to the English House, we will relocate the department to the Center for Liberal Arts Department (CLA),” he said in a letter to faculty and staff last week. “English faculty will move this summer from the English House to CLA, in space currently occupied by the Action Research Center."
The research center "will move to the Ames Library as part of the forthcoming Center for Engaged Learning,” said Jensen.
The future of the English House, located at 1101 N. Main St., has not yet been determined, but “ongoing maintenance costs are prohibitive,” Jensen said in his letter announcing the closure.
In a Facebook post, the IWU English Department addressed the closure.
“This is an old house that is not ADA compliant. In addition, it is in need of many expensive repairs, and closing it is the financially responsible thing to do. We want you to know that while this is sad news, nothing about our faculty, staff, or curriculum is changing. All the wonderful things that you love about our department — the courses, the readings, the workshops, the lectures, the social events, the lively discussions with faculty — will not change. We’ll simply have a new home base for all of it.”
Matt Bierman, IWU's vice president for business and finance, said Monday the decision is the right one for the university.
"It is an iconic building for us but we have to make the decisions that are right for the university," he said. "There are some advantages for our faculty because they can collaborate with other departments much easier. We haven't decided what to do with it, but it is not our intent to tear it down. If we heard of some creative ideas, we would be very interested."
The closure will allow for the reduction of five custodial service positions. All of those positions are currently vacant, he added.
The residence was designed and built by Bloomington native and architect Arthur Pillsbury, and has been home to the department since 1973. Pillsbury, a Harvard graduate, was one of the first architects to be licensed in Illinois and was Bloomington’s first architect to have earned a college degree.
The house features barrel ceilings in the downstairs hallway and a wraparound porch and was loved by many students, including Molly McLay, a 2006 IWU graduate.
"I have so many great memories of the English House and I became the person I am because of the treasured mentors in that house," she said. "There are so many nooks and crannies that are so meaningful to the students. We all spent a great deal of time there, talking with our professors about research and figuring out our lives."