August 20, 2012 12:00AM
Campus and community representatives gathered Friday to celebrate a milestone in Pittsburg State University’s multi-year residence hall renovation project. The completion of Tanner Annex means that all of the student housing on the university’s north side is either new or renovated. Attention now turns to Dellinger and Nation halls on the university’s south side.
“The focus is on providing our students with a modern, safe and comfortable environment in which they can excel,” said President Steve Scott.
The president praised University Housing staff for managing the ongoing work, which must take place during the short summer months.
“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we work together to plan and build for the future,” Scott said.
The work on Tanner Annex cost $2.2 million. Previous work on the north campus halls included renovations to Bowen Hall, $1.2 million in 2009; Trout Hall, $1 million in 2010; and Tanner Hall, $1.4 million in 2011. In 2010, the university completed construction of Crimson Commons apartments, at a cost of $10 million.
On the south campus, Dellinger and Nation renovations are projected to cost $9 million.
University Archivist Randy Roberts shared some history about Tanner Hall and Tanner Annex and about Rex R. Tanner, for whom the buildings are named.
Tanner, he said, was an alumnus of the university, a principal in Weir, and was taking summer classes at the college when lightning struck Russ Hall in the early morning hours of June 29, 1914.
“At 3:45 a.m., a call came into the Pittsburg Fire Department from the cafeteria watchman indicating lightning had struck and ‘the Main’ (Russ Hall) was on fire,” Roberts said.
Fire wagons, each pulled by a team of horses, responded from stations 1 and 2. Firemen laid 3,000 feet of hose and at one time there were 10 streams of water on the burning building. A large crowd gathered and the firemen enlisted as many as 100 bystanders to help fight the blaze.
In the chaos, some hoses, under high pressure, got away from those manning them and frightened two of the horses, Cap and Deck. The horses pushed over a telephone pole that became entangled with live electric wires. One of the horses, Deck, was electrocuted. The other, Cap, was knocked off his feet and fireman H.C. Miles was knocked down and badly burned on one hand, Roberts said. Rex Tanner became entangled in one of the live wires and was killed.
Roberts said that Tanner’s sacrifice in the effort to save Russ Hall was only part of the story. As a young student, Roberts said, Tanner defended R.S. Russ, who lost his job as the principal of the young school in the political battle to end PSU’s auxiliary status to Emporia State University. Later, Tanner took petitions to Topeka to fight to have the university’s first permanent building named after Russ.
“He was passionate about his school as a student and an alumnus and in the end gave his life fighting to save the university’s first permanent home,” Roberts said.
Students will move in to Tanner Annex and other PSU residence halls on Saturday, Aug. 18. Classes begin on Monday, Aug. 20.