Westlake Hall is known for its days of watchmaking, but after recent renovation it’s safe to say the building will always be timeless.
As one of the products from the Campaign for a Bradley Renaissance, the home of the college of Education and Health Sciences celebrated a rededication Oct. 12.
“All of you understand the historical significance of this 115-year-old facility,” said Joan Sattler, dean of the college. “This building’s impact on generations to come will be untold. It is truly a joy to be on this campus.”
Sattler, along with President Joanne Glasser, welcomed dozens of red-and-white-clad alumni and students to the celebration outside of Westlake. The crowd was already too large for the prearranged seating, but the audience still listened to speeches honoring Westlake and watched a fireworks show at the end of the event.
“My heart is just filled with tremendous joy and gratitude,” Glasser said.
Senior learning behavior specialist major Michael Adair and State Senator David Koehler also spoke at the event.
“The state of Illinois is very proud and happy to be a part of this project,” Koehler said. “Bradley is the jewel of the Midwest and [Westlake] is now part of this jewel.”
Doug Stewart, Bradley graduate and member of the Board of Trustees, explained Westlake’s transformation from its beginning to present day.
Lydia Moss Bradley, who always had an interest in creating a technical institution, first established the Peoria Watch Company in 1886. But once the company failed, Mrs. Bradley didn’t panic – she bought Parson’s School of Horology in 1895 and moved it onto present day campus. Horology Hall was the first building in the nation, erected solely for the use of a watchmaking school.
“As we rededicate Westlake Hall it’s important to remember the original building and the hall of Horology,” Stewart said.
Glasser said Westlake’s renovation kept Mrs. Bradley in mind.
“The rebuilding of Westlake had to respect the original building and Mrs. Bradley as well,” she said. “History lives inside this building.”
Stewart presented two historical artifacts to Glasser and Sattler, both timepieces from the Horology school’s early days. A sun dial, made by Bradley professor Grant Hood in 1905, was first. The words “time flies” are inscribed on the top. Stewart also presented a number one watch from Lydia Moss Bradley’s original Watch Company. Number one watches in the late 19 century were often given to officers and dignitaries. This watch is more than 120 years old, and it still tells time perfectly.
Both timepieces are now located in the Westlake atrium, along with new display cases filled with artifacts, including Westlake’s original sign, textbooks and old tools and parts for watchmaking.
Groups of alumni came back to the Hilltop to witness the rededication.
“It’s absolutely fabulous,” said Jean Ladley Powers ‘57. “I had classes [in Westlake] in the 1950s because I majored in home economics. I’m very anxious to see the inside.”
Barbara Gurtler ‘55 also had home economics classes in the old Westlake.
“The ceremony was lovely,” she said. “It’s a big change [from when I was here]. I live in Peoria now so I’ve watched it change over the years.”
Sattler said despite its recent renovations, Westlake will always be a timeless symbol at Bradley.
“Our iconic Westlake clock tower beckons us for future generations,” she said. “It’s time to get ready. The legacy will live on.”