Former dining hall restored into a 'dignified space' with modern touch
By Kim Walter
As part of its homecoming weekend, Massanutten Military Academy will dedicate the new Spanier Library and Media Center in Sperry Hall on Saturday.
Originally built in 1915, the former dining hall had been vacant for several years, but when alumnus Dr. Manus Spanier donated $500,000 to the school, he knew exactly what he wanted done with it.
"The donor had very specific ideas that he spelled out for his gift," said alumnus and project manager Daniel Watkins. "He wanted the woodwork restored, and just wanted the atmosphere to be ... I won't say formal, but it's definitely a dignified space."
MMA had to produce another $200,000 for the final restoration, which was completed in August.
The admissions office and an alumni museum are located on the first floor of the building, along with the library. Much of the woodwork and architecture was reproduced, and an original fireplace can be found at one end of the room. But not everything about the space feels dated, Watkins said.
"We've got a nice media center, computer lab, lounge seating and space for teachers to utilize as well," he said of the room. "And the shelves have more or less been filled, but it's really become more of a media space. Kids are here quite frequently, but a lot of times not one of them has a book."
The previous library was in a space that "wasn't set up for that use," Watkins said. However, the new space caters to a more modern, updated take on the nature of libraries, and the feedback from students has been positive.
"It's not unusual for someone who walks in for the first time to say 'wow,'" he said of the now ornate room. Additionally, Watkins brought students into the library every couple weeks while it was being renovated, and he said they seem to appreciate it even more because of that.
Even though the building has been restored, Watkins said it still fits in with the rest of campus, which features several buildings from the earlier half of the 20th century.
Saturday's events will start at 10 a.m. with the dedication of 30 new flag poles on campus, followed by a parade down to the football field. A roll call will be done to honor those graduates who have died in the past year, followed by a 21-gun salute.
The donor's son will speak at the dedication, and though Dr. Spanier, class of '48, won't be in attendance, nine of his family members will be there to cut the ceremonial ribbon.
"This is true for any school, but these alumni donations build buildings and pay for programs," Watkins said. "To an extent, they keep a school alive."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org