The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Monroe: Changes on Track

3 min read


Several months since the Monroe Hall construction started, many students wonder when the renovations going on behind the fence will be complete.
Monroe Hall is still in the demolition phase, but the plan is on schedule, according to John Wiltenmuth, associate vice president of facilities services.  Wiltenmuth said the building should reopen for the Fall semester in 2011.
Monroe Hall, originally built in 1911, is one of the last three original buildings on the University of Mary Washington campus. The other remaining original buildings are Willard Hall, built in 1911, and Virginia Hall, built in 1915.
Due to construction, the economics department permanently moved to the university-owned property at 1004 College Ave. The rest of the departments originally housed in Monroe had to be placed in other buildings during the renovations.

For the duration of the renovation project, the history department along with international affairs and political science will remain in Mercer Hall, while the sociology and anthropology departments will stay in George Washington Hall. The geography department relocated to Annex B.
“I don’t really like [Annex B],“ junior Scott Mattheisson, a geography major said. “If the university keeps renovating so much then it doesn’t really look good for the school to constantly be under construction.”
The estimated cost of the construction to Monroe Hall totals around $7 million. Funding for the renovations is coming from state funds.
The renovations include the reconfiguration of hallways and walls as well as upgrades to the air conditioning and heating systems. There will also be new electrical wiring throughout the entire building.
The attic of Monroe will be fully reconstructed into an additional floor for the anthropology department offices. The new floor will give all of the departments more space.
The outside of Monroe will see changes during the renovation process too.
The wooden columns will be replaced with new fiberglass capitals and all the exterior windows will be replaced with energy efficient models.
“Our department understands why changes are taking place within Monroe Hall as to its air handling and heating system,” Douglas Sanford, associate professor and chair of the historic preservation department said.  “Similarly, we respect the needs of the academic departments there to have new and updated facilities for themselves and their students.”
Some students and faculty in the historic preservation department are upset about the loss of Monroe Hall’s murals. The murals, which depict the state seals of America, were painted in the 1940s by Emil M. Schnellock, a former professor, and students from his murals painting course. Some in the department feel that by losing some of the murals, Monroe Hall is losing its historical value.
“Monroe Hall has had various alterations in the past, as well,” Sanford said. “Still, our concern has been over the extent of loss for the building’s historic materials and elements.  Once gone, those portions of the building can never be replaced.  We wished that more attention would have been given to Monroe Hall’s historic qualities in the ongoing renovation.”
The murals on the main floor are being protected for future restoration, Wiltenmuth said.
However, “reconfiguration of walls on the upper floor will result in loss of those murals,” he said. “Pictorial documentation was accomplished prior to the start of construction for historical record of the changes.”
Not all students are excited about the renovations to Monroe Hall.
“I am so upset with the construction,” Megan Paulson, a senior anthropology major, said. “Why would they want to take a building with so much history and so much beauty and change it?”