It's no secret. The Shady Dell has seen her better days. She was getting bags under her windows. The good news is that the Dell is now in the process of getting a long overdue facelift!
In these exclusive photos provided by the Deroche family, current owners of the Dell, you will see the renovation work that began a little over a week ago. These pictures should come as a welcome sight to Dell rats. We can be cautiously optimistic that this round of home improvements is a step in the right direction...toward preserving the Dell...and a step away from its destruction.
For the better part of two years the Dell has been up for sale and possibly on the chopping block...its fate hanging in the balance while the Deroches weighed their options. One briefly contemplated scenario was to transform the Dell house into a pair of apartments. Another idea was to sell the Dell a.s.a.p. to a person or persons willing to take on a genuine fixer-upper and do the restoration work. Of course, there was always the option Dell rats dreaded: to sell to a real estate developer who would demolish the Dell, pave paradise and put up a parking lot.
The very thought of losing our cherished alma mater...our sacred institute of high and yearning...this place that I affectionately call the Shady Dell School of Hard Knocks sent chills down the spine of every true Dell rat.
"Raze hell...not the Dell!"
came the the battle cry from hardcore Dell rats on Facebook and all across the U-S-of A!
It remains to be seen what will happen to the Dell in the long run. For now, we can all be grateful that things seem to be moving in the right direction. According to Toni Deroche, the decison makers are taking it one step at a time. This initial phase of the Dell makeover concentrates solely on the outside. There are three main projects currently underway with a fourth slated to begin in the near future.
1. Dell house roof repair/replacement
2. tree removal
4. Dell house exterior painting (work to begin soon)
Toni shared details about the work being done: “The original parking lot and driveway are being removed. The old parking lot will be turned into a grassy spot with a few of the orginal beautiful trees.”
Toni points out that significant changes are also taking place on the opposite side of the house. "A new driveway coming off Starcross is now being graded to the right of the barn," Toni said.
Over the decades the Dell became overgrown with trees. Many of them are being cleared now to open things up and let some light in.
The most urgently needed improvement is the replacement of the Dell house roof, according to Toni. "The Dell needed a new roof very badly," she said. "The ceiling in the front bedroom was caving in!"
What about the barn? Recent scenarios had the barn being torn down. For now it appears the legendary Dell dance hall will remain standing.
What about the graffiti on the barn's interior walls?
What's going to happen to those unique cherub-theme murals that have mystified and delighted Dell rats for 50 years? Please don’t tell me...
“The graffiti won’t get painted over," asserts Toni. “Not if I have anything to say about it! Maybe the wooden walls but not the ones that have the drawings of people dancing and cherubs playing instruments. I was thinking of making frames around parts to showcase it.” That's great thinking, Toni! You’re a Dell rat through and through!
In my humble opinion, the graffiti is one of the Dell’s major strengths, not a flaw or weakess. Think about it. An ordinary looking piece of furniture becomes more interesting and more aesthetically pleasing when given a distressed, antique finish.
The same applies to the Dell walls. Those old walls have decades of Dell history written all over them.
The graffiti covered walls are a Dell diary of sorts...
a record of who was there and what they were thinking and feeling. It would be a terrible shame to erase all of that history in a matter of minutes with a coat of paint.
Once that decision is made and the deed is done...
there’s no unringing the bell – no do overs.
Dell rats coast to coast salute the Deroche family for their wisdom in giving this and all other aspects of Dell preservation careful consideration!
One original piece of the Dell that has necessarily been demolished is the old fireplace that once stood at the end of the concrete slab that served as the outdoor dance floor.
It was here that generations of Dell rats congregated late at night and huddled together for warmth, talking, singing, laughing, loving and whiling away the hours sometimes till the break of dawn while John Ettline, a man with the patience of Job, a man who remembered what other grownups forgot - what it's like to be young - read his newspaper in the snack bar.
Today all that remains at the spot where the old hearth once stood are shards of brick, dirt and tree roots. Toni Deroche insists that the decision was made to dismantle the fireplace because it had become an eyesore. “The fireplace was falling down and decrepit," she said. “It was in need of drastic repair and we thought the money was better spent on other aspects of the renovation.”
That brings up an another important question. Will old timer Dell rats still be able to recognize the Shady Dell after all of the work has been completed? Or will the Dell look completely different inside and out? “The outside should look pretty much the same," assured Toni, “only better with paint and repairs. The inside will definitely be changed and updated to accommodate a family’s needs.”
If we must choose between a Dell that survives as a mix of the old and the new or a Dell that gets leveled by a bulldozer and ceases to exist in any form whatsoever...then we’ll pick curtain number one, Monty.
Have a Shady day!
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