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Victoria College auditorium demolition to be finished after new year

By JR Ortega
Dec. 15, 2011 at 6:15 a.m.
Updated Dec. 16, 2011 at 6:16 a.m.

A pile of exterior bricks piles up on the ground as crews remove the brick facade.  Workers have the challenge to remove asbestos suspended in a tar-like substance.

Buy a Brick

A limited supply of commemorative bricks from the auditorium's walls are available for purchase. Proceeds from the sale of the commemorative bricks benefit the Victoria College's Fine Arts program. To buy a brick, call Cara Frederick at 361-582-2419 or email her at cara.frederick@victoriacollege.edu.

Some Speakers of THE Victoria College Fine Arts Auditorium

Feb. 14, 1978 - North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin, who acquired national prominence as chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, explained what he considered the five basic rights found in the United States Constitution: economic, personal, intellectual, political, and religious.Sept. 23, 1980 - Syndicated Columnist William F. Buckley addressed the largest crowd ever to hear a speaker in the Fine Arts Auditorium. Buckley entertained and delighted the mostly conservative throng by skillfully orating upon the key issues of the day and taking verbal swipes at President Jimmy Carter.Feb. 4, 1981 - PBS Anchor and VC alumnus Jim Lehrer returned to Victoria and reminisced about his years at VC. He was presented with a Distinguished Alumnus Award.Sept. 24, 1981 - Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley, author of "Roots" and a marvelous storyteller, related his background and provided insight into the events that produced his major work.Oct. 12, 1986 - Actor Charlton Heston was the only Lyceum speaker who spoke on Sunday. Heston related his thoughts on several extraordinary historical figures and expressed his views on freedom.

Feb. 11, 1997 - Poet Maya Angelou attracted the second largest crowd to ever attend a Lyceum event in the Fine Arts Auditorium. Angelou talked to the audience by her captivating demeanor and dramatic poetry reading.March 30, 2011 - Author Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the New York Times best-selling memoir "Eat, Pray, Love," shared secrets of her successful writing career and the elements she found to be important in the process toward self-discovery.SOURCE; Victoria College "If Walls Could Talk" program

Walls have started coming down at Victoria College's Fine Arts Auditorium - brick by brick.

The auditorium has a 45-year legacy of housing speakers from all over the world, such as poet Maya Angelou, author Elizabeth Gilbert and opera singer Luciano Pavarotti.

"It's bittersweet," said Larry Garrett, executive director of planning and special projects. "It's mixed feelings."

The demolition should be done by the end of January; however, immediately afterward will begin the renovation of existing building and then the addition of 7,000 square feet of new structure, Garrett said.

The area where the auditorium is now will become an outdoor performance area.

The project cost about $2.5 million and about $2 million of the cost is from what was left over from a 2006 bond project, Garrett said.

This week, the demolition has required the removal of each brick. Next week, the demolition of the concrete block and steel structure will come down.

Some will be salvaged and recycled, Garrett said.

The auditorium is being demolished piece-by-piece because back in the '60s, the auditorium was constructed with a lot of asbestos-loaded materials, Garrett added.

Demolition of the interior began just after Thanksgiving, but it has not been until this week that people walking the campus have noticed this long-standing building slowly fade away.

"Even though we're taking down the auditorium, we're making room for teaching facilities and arts and music programs," Garrett said.

Some additions to the half renovated and new building will be a new band hall, art gallery, choir room, piano classroom, student practice rooms and offices. The college is also building a 1,500 square foot ceramic kiln yard.

The entire project is expected to be finished by the start of the 2012 fall semester.

Speakers for the Victoria College Lyceum Lecture Series have used the auditorium, which seated about 1,000 people, since the series began.

Now, speakers are using the college's 200-seater Johnson Symposium. Speakers expected to rally larger crowds will be moved to the Victoria Fine Arts Center, Garrett said.

Also, bricks from the auditorium are being sold commemoratively.

Cara Frederick, the college's development director, said selling these bricks helps keep the memory of the auditorium's legacy alive.

"These individuals are grateful to keep a piece of history close to them and the commemorative bricks will help them keep their memories of the auditorium alive," she said.

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