USF earns Indiana Landmarks’ Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration

News release from the University of Saint Francis:

USF earns Indiana Landmarks’ Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration

(April 29, 2013) – Indiana Landmarks has awarded its annual Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration to the University of Saint Francis for its transformation of Brookside, the former Bass mansion on its main Fort Wayne campus.

USF President Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, accepted the Cook Cup from Indiana Landmarks’ Chairman Timothy Shelly and President Marsh Davis at an event in Indianapolis Saturday. “The university’s achievement at Brookside proves that it’s possible to carefully restore a structure using the highest standards while also assuring modern functionality,” Davis said in presenting the award.

Brookside, a 25,000-square-foot mansion, was built as the Bass family’s summer cottage in 1903. The Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration bought the estate in 1944. Brookside was the college’s sole building, accommodating classrooms, library and offices for the college of 60 women students.

By the 21st century, Saint Francis was a co-educational university with 2,300 students on the main campus. Brookside was the library, a beloved but tired structure that was ill-equipped for the digital age. The building lacked central air conditioning and adequate electrical outlets. The mansion needed major foundation and roof repair.

The firm of Wing and Mahurin designed Brookside, decorating the sandstone exterior with a veritable zoo of grotesques and fanciful creatures. Some of the figures had been worn to nubs by weather and pollution. Inside, fluorescent fixtures lit most rooms and vinyl covered many floors. Institutional paint concealed stenciled surfaces, and water had damaged elaborate decorative plaster.

When the University of Saint Francis built a new library, the institution spent a few years studying the future of Brookside. “It could have opted for a modern updating, but instead the university chose an all-out $4.5 million restoration,” said Davis. “The structure now houses the offices of the president, development and alumni affairs, and knock-your-socks-off meeting and event spaces. The university did all the right things, in the right way.”

Davis lauded the university and its architect, MKM architecture + design, for their in-depth research, which included poring over historic photos, the Bass family history and accounts of the architecture and interior décor of the period, as well as performing on-the-scene historic paint analyses. He also congratulated general contractor W. A. Sheets & Sons for the excellent quality of the restoration work, and Conrad Schmitt Studios for the restored and replicated decorative finishes throughout the house.

The university updated all of Brookside’s systems as inconspicuously as possible, adding air conditioning, an elevator and accessible restrooms. Artisans restored or replicated the plaster decoration, stenciling and murals originally found throughout the house. Scalamandre reproduced the original fabric wall coverings in the library and foyer.

“Balancing its office use of Brookside, the University of Saint Francis gives the community opportunities to experience this National Register-listed treasure, which will stand strong for another century. The restoration is a gift, in a way—to alumni and students, and to the community,” Davis said.

“The University of Saint Francis is grateful for this recognition,” President Kriss said. “I have the opportunity to enjoy Brookside every day, since my office is located in the building. I also enjoy watching the surprised expressions of the hundreds of visitors who try to imagine how the Bass family lived in the early 1900s. The university is pleased that Brookside can once again be enjoyed by members of the Fort Wayne community and others from around the State of Indiana.”

With nine offices located throughout the state, Indiana Landmarks helps people rescue endangered landmarks and restore historic neighborhoods and downtowns. For more information on the not-for-profit organization, visit


The University of Saint Francis, founded in 1890 as a comprehensive university in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs through the School of Health Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, School of Professional Studies and School of Creative Arts. The university’s College of Adult Learning designs focused curriculum for working adults by offering online and accelerated programs, through its Virtual, Fort Wayne and Crown Point campuses. More than 2,300 students from a broad geographic region attend USF for its academic excellenc

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