What lies above and beneath: The mysteries of Lakeland College


Leah Ulatowski

An original wooden board, with signatures, from Old Main’s bell tower.

Austin Anderson, Staff Reporter

Rising high above campus, Old Main Hall dominates the front entrance. It is the symbol of the college and is one of the oldest buildings on campus, having been constructed in November 1888.

On top of the bell tower is a steeple, a weather vane and lightning rod. On the exterior, Old Main’s bell tower is painted in a maroon and white livery and is constructed out of wood, not brick like the rest of Old Main. However, one of the little known facts to many students on campus is what is inside the bell tower.

First, a giant bell lies inside. Vandals who were lightly remodeling the tower in the 1990s stole the original bell, but a farmer from a local United Church of Christ church that was being torn down donated the current bell.

Aside from the bell, the inside of the tower holds a vast array of signatures from students and faculty. According to Lucretia Crawford, associate professor of English, some of the oldest signatures, whose histories are unknown, date from the 1890s and early 1900s and are written in chalk.

The most notable signature in the tower is the wife of Arthur Krueger (Krueger Hall’s namesake), Catherine Krueger. She etched her name in the wood of Old Main’s tower in the 1950s.

By 2003, the bell tower had rotted significantly, almost to the point of collapse. In order to preserve the tower for years to come, the college rebuilt it with new wood and supports to make the tower stronger.

The construction company hired to rebuild the tower threw away much of the old wood that had signatures written on it. Crawford and some students saved the disposed wood and preserved it in the Lakeland archives located in a house along Prof Drive.

Since the renovation, fewer signatures exist within the tower, with the majority existing on the west side. Old and new wood are mixed in on the other three sides of the tower, with some wood with signatures in place and some wood that has yet to be signed.

“It was a tradition to sign the inside of the bell tower,” says Crawford, who signed the inside of the tower in 1993. Her bell tower board was retrieved during the renovation in 2003 and is located within the archives.

“Signing the bell tower sounds awesome. I’d like to go up there and do that,” said Ronald Balazs, freshman exercise science major.

Until the mid-1990s, a staircase within the Hayssen Academic Resource Center (ARC) led to the bell tower before it was removed. With installation of heating ducts, pipes and wires to keep the building warm and safe, the tower’s entry has been made much more difficult to approach.

“It’s doable, but much harder to get into,” Crawford said.

For safety reasons, students are not allowed into the tower unless with special permission.

One of the other unseen mysteries that the college holds is below the ground. It is a tunnel and it starts in the women’s dorm of Krueger Hall and heads south to Old Main. From Old Main, it turns west and goes to the John Ecsh Library. Lastly, the tunnel makes a wide curve heading east from the library to WAK. The tunnel’s original purpose served as a heating system throughout campus.

Known as a steam tunnel, a giant steam boiler existed within the tunnel, pumping heat to Krueger, Old Main, John Esch Library and the William A. Krueger Building (WAK).

Students would keep watch on the boiler during the night to make sure the boiler would not explode due to extreme steam pressure. However, most nights, the majority of students on “boiler duty” held parties instead of keeping watch on the boiler.

During the rough winters in the 1940s and 50s, Lakeland opened up the steam tunnel so students could walk between the four buildings in warmth.

“I think the tunnel is very interesting,” said Jacob Nault, sophomore choral and general music education major. “I had never even heard of the tunnel!”

The steam boiler was taken out of service and the tunnel became obsolete. Students are not allowed into the tunnel due to hazardous air materials within the tunnel.

Portions of the tunnel are still visible though. An entryway to the tunnel lies on the first floor of Krueger and a cement square by the library holds a trap door on top that leads down to the tunnel below.

For now, Lakeland’s big mysteries, the bell tower and steam tunnel, will remain closed to the students. They can be viewed from the outside, and individuals may wonder about what lies ahead for them in the future.