The Ghost of Kreeger's Past

Julie Szymaszek

I wake up every morning to the behemoth known as Miller & Long’s crane, swinging from one end of the new SIS building’s construction site to the other. With all the emphasis placed on new buildings like the SIS building or the recently opened Kogod wing, at times I turn my attention to one of AU’s abandoned structures – the Kreeger Music Hall.

Kreeger Music Building sits in the southwest corner of campus. It is nondescript and obscured by trees and construction trailers.  On prospective student tours, it’s unlikely any ambassador takes visitors past the Southside shuttle stop. “Nevermind that bland, supposedly-haunted building behind all of the construction in the corner,” I can imagine them saying. However, all of that might soon change.

Opened in 1966, the Kreeger Music Hall is named after David Lloyd Kreeger, an art collector, philanthropist and former chairman of Geico. Mr. Kreeger, who died in 1990, was a trustee emeritus to American University — a special honor given by the AU Board of Trustees. Originally from New Jersey, he was a prominent figure in Washington, D.C., working in the Justice Department until 1967 and until 1979 was involved with Geico. From 1970-78, he was president of the National Symphony Orchestra, and in 1980, he founded the Washington Opera.

Kreeger Music Hall opened in the fall of 1966. According to James Heintze’s Perspectives on American Music Since 1950, the 168-seat McDonald Recital Hall is “an intimate and acoustically-tuned concert setting particularly ideal for chamber music performances. The raised stage is beautifully framed by plush ceiling-to-floor blue velvet drapes.” Kreeger enjoyed housing AU’s various recitals and performance classes until 2003, when Katzen was built. According to a January 1981 Eagle article, Kreeger is supposedly haunted by a benevolent ghost, affectionately named “Jeri.”

Kreeger’s beautifully framed raised stage, moth-eaten blue velvet drapes and the rest of its three floors now sit in various states of dilapidation, leaving Jeri to haunt an abandoned structure.

What plans does AU have for Kreeger? I contacted Public Safety to gain entry into the building, but was told in an e-mail from Risk Management and Safety Services that, “due to renovation for construction, no one may enter Kreeger under any circumstances until those renovations are complete.” Through navigation of AU’s website, it would appear that Kreeger is currently undergoing remodeling to become the new home for Audio Tech.  The Office of the University Architect site states, “The basic building systems and exterior envelope need repairs. OUA is working with Facilities Management to identify the scope of repairs needed to the base building such as roofing, structural pointing of the brick and asbestos abatement.”

Are AU’s bragging rights going to one day extend to include Kreeger Hall, the new Audio Technology building? Are we going to wake up one morning to an impressive Miller & Long crane digging up ditches and receive e-mails encouraging us all to check out the “newly renovated Kreeger building” ? Maybe, only time will tell. For now, though, Kreeger remains ignominiously tucked away.