Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Eliot Hall is Being Demolished at Washington University

Eliot Hall, the remaining half of a pair of concrete brutalist style buildings completed in 1972 on Washington University's Danforth Campus is currently being demolished to make way for a pair of new buildings. The demolition of a small connector to McMillan Hall began in mid-May, about a week before graduation.  IMG_1246
As of last weekend about a quarter of the structure had been demolished.

Windows and interior partitions have been cleared from the north wing in preparation to bring down the structure.

A view of the north wing of Eliot in mid-May.

The building straddled the north face of the campus hill with two stories facing south to the center of campus and five stories cascading down the hill to the north. Much of the lower portion of the building had odd tall open spaces underneath which didn't seem to serve any purpose.

Out with the "old", in with the "new". Just west of Eliot is the Charles F. Knight Executive Education & Conference Center, which will be expanded as part of the new construction. Mudd Hall, which was the other half of the 1972 complex had been demolished in 1998 for construction of the Knight Center. Information about Mudd, which had formerly housed the School of Law can be found in a recent issue of Washington University Law Magazine, which was dedicated to remembering the years in Mudd.

Knight Hall - Washington University
The architecture of the new Knight Hall will be similar to the existing building. 

Across from the Knight building, as part of the project a portion of the Millbrook parking garage has been taken down to create a staging area for the construction of the new complex. After construction, the area will apparently be landscaped.

A view of the demolition from the center of campus and a the building prior to demolition below. The rendering at right shows the south side of the new complex which will be named Bauer Hall, and house an expansion of the Olin School of Business. 


While peering through the fence last weekend I was shocked to see that not only is Eliot being demolished, but also a wing of the historic McMillin hall, which was originally a women's dormitory built in 1906. The one story wing that extended west of the main structure likely housed a lounge or other large public space in the building.

Slate is being stripped from the wing, which will be cut back to a short bump-out with the a bay window re-created at the west wall. Below is a view of the wing prior to the start of demolition.


This photo shows the difference in scale between the existing Knight Center and Eliot Hall now under demolition. I should be clear that I am not mourning the loss of Eliot, but the west wing of McMillin is an unfortunate casualty. While I found some architectural elements of the building to be interesting, I understand that Eliot and Mudd Halls were hated by many and I also understand that the university has growth needs that must be met with additional square footage of buildings. Here is a good essay though from an architectural student titled In Defense of Eliot Hall.

It should be noted that over the last 10-15 years that Washington University has built about a dozen large new buildings on its main campus without increasing its footprint by expanding classrooms into surrounding areas or the loss of a single private residential structure. Wash U instead has taken to urbanizing the hilltop as well as land east of Brookings, which is good. This cannot be said about another local university, who's demolition antics on and off campus have managed to keep preservationists in St. Louis in a constant frenzy.


Melissa said...

this makes me sad. Eliot was in terrible disrepair, but one of the few architecturally interesting buildings on campus.

I wrote a paper about McMillan when I was in school at Wash U. That wing that's being demolished was originally the women's gym, although years ago it was converted into an incredibly awkward lecture room.

Brian said...

Aye, the room that's being removed (McMillan 149) was the original women's gymnasium on campus, to allow women to exercise free of the apparently salacious menfolk of the early 1900s (McMillan was built in 1906). In the 1950s, the room housed the University's first UniVac computer, and was converted to a classroom in the 1960s. Having had a class there, I can tell you it was one of the three worst lecture halls on campus in the late 1990s. After the renovations of Wilson and Busch, it probably became THE worst lecture hall on campus.

Mourn the loss of the room if you must, but the absence of Eliot hall more than makes up for it.

Anonymous said...

Sad. I love gothic architecture and the pink Missouri granite that pervades Wash U.'s campus. But after Mudd was demolished, Eliot was the one building on campus that stood on its own as something different. It wasn't particularly attractive, but it stood out as a unique part of an otherwise homogeneous campus. I wouldn't want all of Wash U. to look like Eliot, but I wish it didn't have to be demolished.

Wash U. has a very pretty campus, but Eliot provided a little punk on the edges that was kind of cool. I will miss it. But oh well.

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Anonymous said...

Good Riddance! It has been quite heartening to see the concrete brutalism of Mudd and Eliot eliminated from an otherwise beautiful campus.

SI '84