The drive up Newstead Avenue toward Finney Avenue has a much different look as crews continue the major remodel of the home of Ranken’s Automotive programs. Work on the Rodenheiser building began earlier this summer with the demolition of the parking lot outside of the Automotive Collision shop, which will eventually be a brand new addition to the facility. Over the last couple of weeks the east wall has been completely removed and preparations for the construction of the footings for the new addition are underway. The true transformation will begin taking place in mid- October with the installation of the structural steel. The final product will include more than 23,800 square feet of new and remodeled space which will include classrooms, shops, a student lounge, an elevator and restrooms.
The Rodenheiser building has a long history and the easternmost section (ACR) is possibly the oldest structure on campus. According to the St. Louis Transportation Museum, the building opened in 1892 as a streetcar "shed." United Railways closed the facility in 1928 and then was reopened by the St. Louis Public Service Company as a bus garage in 1940, then closed again in 1953. Prior to Ranken purchasing the building in 1960, McDonnell Douglas used the space for a wing assembly plant and research center. The building was renamed Rodenheiser in 1973 after George B. Rodenheiser, the first Ranken graduate (class of 1915) ever to be appointed as the school’s director (1954). Rodenheiser had previously served as a Plumbing instructor, head of the Plumbing department and assistant to the director. He was also a registered professional engineer. During his tenure he took a very aggressive approach to updating and refreshing Ranken’s image as a technical powerhouse and was instrumental in connecting the College to industry. By the mid-1960’s the school was developing training programs with Chrysler, Ford and Chevrolet and at least 30 employers were subsidizing their own workers in campus programs. Other significant changes during his time as director included the admittance of women, the first being Peggy Jo Miller, a graduate of Cleveland High School who received a certificate in Television and Radio Servicing in 1976 and a name change to The David Ranken, Jr., Technical Institute.
Rodenheiser served as the director until September 1972 when he submitted his resignation after suffering a stroke and was no longer able to continue his duties.
The building was used for various business and programs but was gradually completely occupied by the Automotive department. The building was even used for several years as the site for commencement.
The project is estimated to be completed by spring of 2013.