SHAWNEE — When he saw the damage to Benedictine Hall at St. Gregory's University after a 2011 earthquake, the Rev. Damian Whalen felt the same sense of loss as if something that belonged to his family had been lost.
Whalen, a monk at St. Gregory's Abbey, wasn't alone. On the morning after the quake, a throng of people from the university and the community gathered on campus, grieving over the turret that fell from the building, he said.
“It was like people couldn't go away,” he said.
Just over a year and a half later, the building is on its way to being whole again. Friday, crews replaced the first of four turrets that once graced the historic building. The building was damaged in a 5.6-magnitude earthquake that shook Oklahoma in November 2011.
One of the four turrets fell from the building during the quake. Two others were removed, brick by brick, to preserve as many of the architectural details as possible. A third was damaged so badly that workers had to knock it down.
Arguably the most prominent building on campus, Benedictine Hall has always served as a kind of focal point, Whalen said. The top of the building can be seen for miles around, and its four turrets grace the university's logo.
Completed in 1915, Benedictine Hall was the only building on campus for the first several decades the university existed.
“It's become kind of the symbol of what St. Gregory's is about,” Whalen said.
Building was closed
Broken windows, roof damage and the danger of falling bricks prompted university officials to close the building, which housed most of the university's faculty and administrative offices, as well as classrooms and science labs. Classes resumed in the building in January 2012.