Many rumors have been spread regarding the future of the residential houses Ferguson, Joe McNabb and Gehner. One that’s heard quite frequently is that the three houses are going to be demolished sometime in the near future. These dorms were built in the 1970s to accommodate the increasing student population at a reasonable cost. The administration at that time foresaw that Principia was going to hit an all time high in enrollment, meaning that extra housing was needed quickly. The three dorms have now provided students with a home for more than four decades. So what is the future of these campus dormitories? Are the rumors true?
According to Principia’s Residence Director, Josh Sprague, the demolition of Joe McNabb, Ferguson and Gehner “will happen eventually” but “there is no current plan in place.” Discussions have taken place at the executive level regarding the buildings but because of “life safety renovations” that needed to be done immediately, the decision to go forward with these renovations took precedence over the proposal to tear down the buildings. These renovations were “mandated by the state of Illinois . . . at a considerable expense to Principia,” according to Blair Smith, the resident counselor of Ferguson House. Currently, Joe McNabb is undergoing these renovations, which include the addition of sprinklers and fire doors to improve fire safety. At the same time, Joe is receiving RC apartment improvements and new windows to help with insulation. With all of these changes, this house will not be destroyed any time soon.
“There’s no timeline for it; there’s no funding for it,” said Sprague, explaining why it is unlikely that Joe, Ferguson and Gehner will be replaced in the near future. Sprague commented that the renovations will make the houses “a little bit more livable, a little bit more efficient” but will not “bring them up to par with some of our other magnificent houses.”
The “magnificent houses” Sprague mentioned are the Maybeck style dormitories around campus such as Sylvester, Howard, Buck, Rackham and Anderson. These dorms are known for their unique design and beautiful architecture, drawing in people from outside the Principia community to come and admire them. The immediate need for inexpensive housing space at the time of the other dorms’ construction explains why they were not built Maybeck style.
One of the reasons that the prospect of dorm demolition has been shelved for now, other than the decision to move forward with renovations, is due to the priority of other important projects that will benefit more students and faculty. “The new discussion is on what’s called the CAB, the Core Academic Building, and that would obviously bless the whole community,” said the Dean of Students, Dorsie Glen. Included in the Core Academic Building plan will be new offices, classrooms, meeting areas and a library. These buildings will be built and designed in a “Maybeckian” style. The CAB proposal will be presented to the Trustees in October, which will determine the next steps for the project, according to Glen.
Hopefully all of the speculative theories about the future of Joe McNabb, Ferguson and Gehner houses can now be put to rest. The renovations in Joe will be completed at the end of this calendar year, Ferguson’s renovations will begin in January and Gehner will be renovated this summer. The houses aren’t going anywhere for quite some time.