Wetzel's walls to come crumbling down

Wetzel Hall is being gutted before its implosion on July 14th.

If you went to WIU and lived in Wetzel Hall the steep hill leading up to the dorm was your worst enemy after a long day of classes and your best friend in the winter for sledding.

But whatever memories you have of the residence hall, keep them close because come July 14 the dorm will be gone.

"They will actually structurally compromise a lot of the concrete columns through out the building," Ted Renner, the Western Illinois University Physical Plant deputy director, said. "Then they'll wrap those columns with explosives in such a way that when they detonate the building it cuts through the steal and reinforced concrete around the building and it literally instead of an explosion taking place when it goes out you're literally compromising the structure and it crumples in on itself."

After supplying a home for over four decades to more than 22,000 students Wetzel is being imploded. It was built in 1970 and is the youngest residence hall on the Western Illinois Campus. It was also the one that needed the most upgrades.

"A few years a go we did what is called a facility's condition assessment," Renner said. "We went through and in that assessment Wetzel was identified as being one of the buildings that was the greater maintenance liabilities. It would have taken a lot more money to bring Wetzel back up to par as opposed to some of the other buildings," he said. "So the decision was made, that building needs to come down."

The dorm was closed in Spring 2009. Last year officials sent in maintenance crews to start dismantling the building and on April 1st the hall was handed over to the demolition team.

"They're cutting out all the piping, the duct work, things like that, then dropping it down the elevator shaft" Renner said. "The elevator shaft has been removed then they pull all that metal out that's inside and then they have this big crushing machine that grabs that metal, puts it in the trailer and off it goes."

Almost 90 percent of the building's materials are being recycled but imploding the hall isn't the only thing on Western's agenda. The university wants to preserve its memory too.

"Wetzel has some interesting limestone slate on the side of the building and so before they demolish it they're going to pull some of that material off and when they're done there's going to be a bus stop there," Renner said. "And that bus stop is going to be constructed by some of the stone from Wetzel Hall."

The university has also set up a "virtual scrapbook" on Facebook for former residents to share their memories. Once the building's debris is removed the site will be a green space with limited parking spots.