A historic building in Abilene is being demolished. The Hendrick Home for Children has plans for an $18 million rebuild of its main building, but administrators are committed to preserving the characteristics that make it a landmark in Abilene.
At the end of November, crews began tearing down the main building of the Hendrick Home for Children. The building has served children in need of a home for the last 79 years. But it hasn’t aged well. Lacking an elevator, the building wasn’t up to code. Renovations over the years caused structural problems with the foundation. Water wasn’t draining properly, causing black mold and other issues with old pipes. And generally the design just doesn’t meet the requirements for best practices in childcare.
After five years of discussing options with structural engineers, Hendrick officials came to the agreement that the best option moving forward would be to replace the building. Hendrick’s President and CEO, David Miller, says the new facility will meet their operation needs, and the exterior design will pay tribute to the old historic main building.
“What will drastically change will be the interior of the building, because it will be designed in a way that will meet the practices that we have with the new programs that we have. In childcare you have different programs that evolve with time, and your building needs to match the programs that you have.”
Plans will also commemorate the legacy that Mr. and Mrs. Hendrick started in 1939. One section will feature several pieces brought out of the old building, such as some of the moulding that was characteristic of that time, the original light fixtures, and some of the furniture that Mr. Hendrick bought for the building. Miller says they want to create a legacy journey through a museum in the building, which will showcase the many years Hendrick Home has made an impact on its residents.
For eight decades, Hendrick Home for Children has provide a safe and loving home for thousands of children coming out of dangerous situations. Robert Girdner spent 12 years of his life growing up in the home. “I think Hendrick Home for Children probably means more to me than anything else in my life.” says Girdner. The senior at Baylor University still visits during school breaks.
“They took me in because my father was so sick that he could not care for me or my siblings, and they raised me and then they paid for me to go to college. I don’t know that I think of that as the face of Hendrick Home. I saw Hendrick from a different perspective. I saw everything that went on in the background to make it run, and I saw all the kids daily, and I saw all the house parents when I lived there.”
Girdner says he didn’t spend much time in the main building-and losing the historic structure doesn’t bother him, “I think more the memories I have of that place and the people I know from there are what Hendrick home means to me.”
Initially, the City of Abilene was concerned about losing the historical value. A historic overlay would have prevented Hendrick from following through with the project. Hendrick’s David Miller says after looking at the costs of trying to repair and maintain the building, city officials decided that rebuilding was the best way to commemorate Hendrick’s history and keep it functional.
“Well we love the look of the old building. It was a David Castle design that was very popular in the 1930’s, and that was part of heartburn that we had about replacing this building. But our commitment to the community was that we wanted to replace the building with another building that would be almost identical to the old building.”
Construction on the new building is expected to take up to two years. This project will enable Hendrick to grow from 93 children and single parent families they currently serve to 114 after construction is completed.