The leaves are not the only part of Middle Path changing this fall. The College is installing new wooden benches with a cleaner, straight-lined look and lighter finish than those removed during the path’s restoration.
Assembled by Kenyon carpenters, three benches made of untreated black locust wood from sustainable sources and a local supplier have been added to south campus. The Maintenance Division wanted to give people the chance to share feedback before a total of 20 benches are installed by spring, said Steven Arnett, director of facility operations.
The curved concrete legs that supported the wooden planks of the old benches often broke, and replacing the seats was planned as part of the Middle Path restoration. “The old benches had kind of done their tour of duty, and it was time to do something new,” Arnett said.
The firm that created Kenyon’s landscape master plan, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, designed the benches. The new blond wood will age to a light gray, Arnett said. “That black locust wood, over time, gets a patina on it, so it’ll darken up,” he said. “That’s the look the architect is going for.”
In the coming months, plaques from the old benches with the names of the individuals who gave money for them will be installed on the new seats.
The benches are built to last, Arnett said. Black locust, one of the hardest, sturdiest woods, does well in the elements and often is used to make fence posts and other outdoor fixtures. The wood is ordered from Keim Lumber, about 40 miles from Gambier in Millersburg, Ohio.
Two of the three already installed are between the Church of the Holy Spirit and Olin and Chalmers libraries, and the other is between Ascension Hall and Samuel Mather Hall.
During the restoration, the path was extended outward slightly, and the benches sit on the gravel instead of alongside it. That will help keep the grass from wearing away around the benches. In addition, the restored portions of the path have concrete footers, to which the benches are bracketed underground to ensure they do not move.
Timmy Broderick ’16, chairman of Student Council’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, said the benches will look even better when there are more of them. “It’s like a new haircut,” Broderick said. “It’s not going to look good at first.”
The Maintenance Division has received positive responses and is happy to hear people’s thoughts, Arnett said. “We wanted to just get a couple out there to get some community feedback and what people thought about them before we went hog wild and put 20 benches out there,” he said.
– India Amos ’17