Strong Hall's days are officially numbered and swiftly declining.
A place that once served as UT's first all-female dormitory is slated to be demolished during the spring semester.
Through a donation by Benjamin Rush Strong in honor of his mother, Sophronia Mars Strong, Strong Hall opened its doors in 1925 for 50 residents. Yet, due to short, cramped hallways and poor wiring preventing common luxuries like central air conditioning, one student was caused to pass out from heat stroke.
After closing in 2008, maintenance for the dormitory was no longer deemed cost-effective. The entire hall will be torn down to make room for a new science facility, tentatively scheduled to open in fall 2016.
The final design will be finished by next summer. The updated building will house the Anthropology and Earth and Planetary Sciences departments, as well as new, more interactive labs for undergraduate chemistry and biology.
The majority of the $114 million, 270,000 square foot project's funding will come from the state of Tennessee, but UT will contribute $38.75 million for the new structure.
Despite outward perceptions, UT has not given up on the history of the building.
"We have to look at it from the financial side and determine if we're willing to invest those dollars to bring things up to code," said Chris Cimino, vice chancellor for Finance and Administration. "It was determined a number of years ago that it was not going to make financial sense to actually invest the money to keep operating it as a residence hall."
Jeff Maples, senior associate vice chancellor of Finance and Administration, also acknowledged that practicality outweighs sentimentality.
"It's important to us to try and preserve old buildings, it's our heritage, but oftentimes it's difficult to do that because of new, modern-day codes," Maples said. "It's very difficult to try and preserve a building and still make it useful when you move back in."
However, an old gardener's cottage at the corner of 16th Street and White Avenue, part of the former Cowan estate, will be completely restored. Plans for this building have yet to be decided.
Christine Boake, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, said certain aspects of Strong Hall will be preserved, keeping the building's legacy firmly intact.
"On the oldest part of the dorm there are lintel stones that bear the names of the first women to attend UT," Boake said. "These will be preserved and incorporated. One section of the oldest part of the dorm will be incorporated into the new building to serve as part of the atrium and to provide small discussion rooms."
Arguing that the existing space for chemistry in Buehler Hall is simply outdated, Boake said a new facility should increase teaching effectiveness.
"The spaces will be more flexible in layout than the current classrooms, and will allow the instructors to incorporate new technologies," Boake said. "At a certain stage in the lifetime of a building such as Buehler, it is more effective in terms of cost and time to start over with a new building than to try to renovate older space."
This, Boake said, will push UT ever closer to its Top 25 aspirations.
"Both students and faculty will get to learn and work in top-quality space that is designed with the needs for instruction and research at the forefront," she said. "We hope that great space like this will help to attract and retain top-notch undergrads, grad students, and faculty."