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Putting on a new face

Thursday, November 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:22 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

It was once a place where high school proms and dances were held. Built in 1938, Lela Raney Wood Hall was named for the wife of James Madison Wood, the president of Stephens College at the time. It also used to serve as a residence hall.

By 1995, the hall was in such a state of detoration that it was forced to close even as students protested.

Then in December 2001, the hall suffered $1,000 of fire damage when someone trying to keep warm started a fire with old yearbooks.

Still, members of Stephens College hoped the hall would return to its glory days.

In 2002, the hall got a boost as Gretchen Bush Kimball, a 1957 graduate of Stephens, donated $2.5 million for renovations of the ballroom. It will be named after her.

Work begin in 2003 as crews gutted the interior of the building.

The goal of the renovation is to restore the brick building to the way it once was.

That includes new wiring, plumbing and paint as well as a new hardwood floor and brass light overhead fixtures.

The class of 2001, with the help of alumna Katherine Uslter, who used to live in the hall, donated $10,000 for a vintage soda fountain, which will be located next to the dance floor.

Once the hall is renovated, it will house the registrar and financial aid offices and the Historic Costume Collection museum will be in the basement. The ballroom and soda fountain will be on the first floor.

Crews are in the process of installing new windows as they plan to finish work on the exterior of the hall before Thanksgiving.

No firm deadline exists for the renovation of the interior of the hall because it is linked to an ongoing fund-raising campaign. So far the campaign has raised at least $4 million.


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