Van Meter overlook getting a facelift

Josh Buckman

Years ago, one of the most popular places for Western students was the overlook in front of Van Meter Hall.

The view at the highest point in Warren County could lure hundreds of students.

“It’s part of the most beautiful parts of Warren County,” President Gary Ransdell said. “Nobody has anything like this in America.”

But as time went by the university expanded and more popular spots such as the Preston Center and the Downing University Center emerged at the lower end of campus. The overlook, ignored and crumbled, almost became a forgotten part of Western’s history.

Now, Western administrators will use a $1.5 million donation to rebuild the overlook, which will include a fountain, a sidewalk and a tree garden.

The project is expected to begin in September and be completed by August 2005.

“This is essentially the front door of campus,” said Ed West, director of planning, design and construction. “Right now, it’s just a bare piece of land which used to be an important part of campus.”

The viewing area for the overlook was created about 89 years ago. The gate leading to the stairs at the overlook is currently closed.

The Council on Post-Secondary Education approved the overlook proposal in July. West said council approval was needed because of the magnitude of the project.

If the project does not get under way soon, it could be delayed because of harsh winter weather, West said.

The donor, who is also a local contractor, will oversee much of the construction, he said.

The donor’s name has not yet been released, said Tom Hiles, vice president of institutional advancement.

But Western could not have done the project without the money, Ransdell said.

“We’ll probably have a lot of native Kentucky plants,” West said.

The plan was designed by the Nashville-based company Hodgson and Douglas, he said.

The foundation of the project should be completed within three months, West said. Then, work on the surface will begin.

West said the project should not interfere much with traffic near Van Meter.

Reach Josh Buckman at [email protected]