On April 15, this Editorial Board published an editorial highlighting the need to maintain “Faculty Row” in the wake of the postponed demolition of the brown, wooden cottages near south campus. According to a report from Sarah McNeal of the Daily Campus, the University of Connecticut committed to demolition on July 19, recognizing the need to remove these derelict structures to free up space on campus. Though the decision was contentious, the university is making the right choice to repurpose land on an otherwise crowded campus.
There is merit is saving historic structures, especially those on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). However, Faculty Row’s place on the NRHP should not mean that the structures are immune to potential demolition. Faculty Row was added to the NRHP in 1989, in an effort to preserve the last remaining, historic portion of the UConn-Storrs campus.
At this point in UConn’s history, when there are over 20,000 students enrolled, the Storrs campus must continue modernizing. If the structures were inherently valuable for their historic charm, it would be worth a restoring and repurposing effort. However, the buildings serve not as a nostalgic callback to UConn’s past, but as an eyesore, and a potential money pit for repair.
McNeal quoted Dr. Margaret McCutcheon Faber of Connecticut Historic Preservation Council as championing preservation for Faculty Row, as the buildings are situated “At the heart of the University, near the pond, they are perfectly placed to lend some historic charm to the otherwise industrial character of the campus.”
Dr. Faber is correct in noting that the campus has become an increasingly industrial complex of buildings, with Monteith and Arjona Halls serving as unsightly monuments to mid-century architecture in proximity to Faculty Row. However, instead of preserving Faculty Row, which when repaired would have minimal purpose given the layout of the former Greek housing, this mindset should inform the design of replacement buildings.
Faculty Row is to be demolished for future residence halls, which are desperately needed in Storrs. Designing the buildings to have a pleasing architecture, more akin to Wood Hall or the Family Studies Building, or even the South Residence Halls, would serve to bring back an element of charm to campus. This would remove buildings that serve as little more than groundhog housing, while respecting the concerns of those in favor of preserving Faculty Row.
As UConn continues to modernize, elements of the past will have to be removed. While the university should seek to incorporate historic elements into new buildings, this should not come in the way of sensible expansion and demolition.