Meadville Tribune

Local News

January 7, 2013

'Building' Allegheny's Bentley Hall with LEGOs

MEADVILLE — LEGOs have withstood popularity’s test of time from store shelves to basement boxes, inspiring creativity in the minds of children and even adults like Allegheny College alumnus Jason Ramsey, whose foot-high, foot-and-a-half-wide model of Allegheny College’s historic Bentley Hall garners local attention via social media to this day.

Ramsey, assistant director of Administrative Information Services and class of 1998 Allegheny graduate, turned memory lane into a LEGO-brick road when, walking past his childhood LEGO collection for the umpteenth time, the red hue of several toy blocks reminded him of the administration and registrar building’s particular shade of brick.

“I obviously love the college, having went there and worked there,” said Ramsey, who took on the building’s unique architectural quality as his muse around Christmas-time, 2010. “If you’re looking for lasting historical buildings in northwestern Pennsylvania, Bentley is one of, if not the thing to look for.”

His project has enjoyed a new round of appreciation and social-media traffic recently after he showed photos of it on Facebook.

Bentley Hall, designed by Allegheny’s founder and first president Timothy Alden and built in the 1820s, has secured a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

As the college’s first building, Bentley held classrooms, offices and even housing for early presidents. It’s named after Dr. William Bentley, who donated his private library to Allegheny.

“It’s got a lot of character,” said Ramsey. “It seems to have doors and windows going every which way, but once I started building it, it all made sense.”

The Christmas season seemed as good a time as any to Ramsey, who sought to manifest Bentley Hall’s character as well as his positive memories attending and working for Allegheny College.

Recruiting his 5-year-old son Eli, age 3 at the time, Ramsey laid the groundwork online using the LEGO Digital Designer. Within two days, the father-and-son building team completed the model shell.

“I walked around the building a couple of times to find out what I was missing,” said Ramsey, knowing specialty pieces would eventually be required to complete the project. “I built it brick by brick using the program to be methodical about it.”

After several weeks of tracking down the remaining parts, Ramsey spent upwards of one month erecting his Bentley Hall tribute, which quickly became an Allegheny Magazine photo-op.

“It was really impressive, though if you know Jason you expect that kind of careful attention to detail,” said Kathy Roos, director of campus communications.

“People who work in Bentley seem to be more impressed by it,” said Ramsey, recalling how the then-Dean of Admissions Jennifer Winge requested LEGO Bentley be placed in the visitor’s center, a request Ramsey declined.

“It’s sitting on my desk at work; I get enough traffic in my office for it to be a nice conversation piece,” Ramsey continued.

Although Ramsey claims his skills to be amateur compared to the country’s renowned LEGO builders, he often plays with the idea of capturing another Allegheny structure through the toy brick medium.

“I’d be surprised if I didn’t do more some day,” said Ramsey. “A couple of buildings have caught me eye, but none are an obvious homerun like Bentley, so to speak.”

“I think everyone who’s seen Jason’s LEGO Allegheny building thinks that it should be built into Jason’s job description that he has to create one LEGO Allegheny building a year,” said Roos. “Or maybe a month — that way we might be able to have an entire LEGO campus in time for the college’s bicentennial in 2015.”

Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kfekos@meadvilletribune.com.

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