SHAWNEE, Okla. — Work is expected to begin in January on the restoration and renovation of St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, about 14 months after the largest earthquake in recorded Oklahoma history resulted in major damage to the small campus’ main building.
The 5.6 magnitude earthquake on Nov. 5, 2011, toppled one of the four turrets on each of the four corners of Benedictine Hall and caused significant damage to the building, opened in 1915, that houses administrative offices, the university library and most of the school’s classrooms.
The building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A second turret was so badly damaged that it had to be demolished by pushing it over, while the other two were dismantled brick-by-brick and will be reconstructed, said St. Gregory’s President Greg Main.
“If you saw how it used to be, with the turrets on all four corners of the main tower of this building gone, it really looks kind of bruised,” Main said.
“We’re trying to move it back to its original splendor. It was a magnificent edifice when it was first constructed,” Main said.
The building, referred to by local residents as “the castle,” has the spires that rose from the turrets at the top of the four-floor building cropped off at the roof. There was also damage to the outer brick structure of the building and to the stone stairway that leads from the parking lot into the lobby.
Main said the stone used in the original stairway construction has been traced to a quarry in St. Louis that will be reopened to provide an original replacement for the steps and that aluminum window siding added in the 1960s will be replaced with wood, as was in the original structure, Main said.
The university did not have earthquake insurance, Main said.