Pleas to save Faculty Row ignored by UConn administration

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One of the nine houses set for demolition.

The nine historic cottages built circa 1890-1930 known as Faculty Row on the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs are considered a treasure by many former students, officials, and faculty who have had fond memories of this revered complex. The sign placed at the entrance to this mini-campus enclave tells of its importance in the early history of the university.

The present plan to demolish these Nationally Registered historic cottages is regrettable. Alternatively, an adaptive re-use of these buildings should be made a top priority by the administration, as they represent an invaluable component of the university’s historic fabric.

faculty-row-signAdditionally, these wooden cottages, their lawns and flowering trees offer a brief, peaceful oasis for students and others who seek environmental relief from the ubiquitous brick and mortar towers that dominate the entire UConn campus.

The present UConn  administration is unwavering in its plans to hastily demolish these buildings despite the pleas of over 500 signatories to a petition, many of whom commented passionately about preserving and adaptively reusing these historic properties.

Having attended the Aug. 3 Historic Preservation Council meeting at the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO),  it was disappointing to see that this meeting was carefully controlled by its chairman, who denied the  public a right to speak on behalf of saving  these “Faculty Row” houses.

In my view, most of the meeting was a well-orchestrated filibuster, likely because in the SHPO’s view the demolition was a “done deal,” arranged behind closed doors.

Regrettably, the nearly 700 citizens who wish to preserve these houses have been denied their due rights to pursue an injunction under Connecticut’s Environmental Protection Act.

Suddenly, a peaceful historic oasis used and loved by students and faculty alike over decades has been enveloped by a propaganda-filled screen prohibiting public entrance, demarcating it a hazard zone.  People have lived and worked in the houses up until mid-August with no reported ill effects from toxic materials. It is quite obvious that the administration is attempting to justify efforts to demolish these historic buildings, by presenting them as a public danger.

It should be noted that the advocates for demolition are few, while nearly 700 professors, students, faculty, staff and local residents wish to preserve “Faculty Row.” Now that UConn has resumed its fall session there should be a public referendum to vote on this contentious issue.

Insist upon democracy and eschew double standards!

Please preserve Faculty Row!

Ronald W. McCutcheon lives in Middle Haddam.

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