Campus Tour: Halloway Suites

-July 10th, 2013

Earlier in our campus tour we stopped by the Danford Male Dormitory, so it’s only fair that today we take a look at the Halloway Suites female dorm. Standing here on the sidewalk, the differences couldn’t be more any more plain. While Danford is a modern, five story building, Halloway is more like a vintage Queen Anne-style, two-story bed and breakfast.

Halloway is the oldest standing building on campus, having been built in the 1890s to serve as the only dormitory in a time before the school accepted male students. Of course no matter how well built, few buildings of that age can claim to be completely untouched. Over the years remodeling included the addition of indoor plumbing, electricity, a new wing for a larger kitchen and dining area, air conditioning, and much more.

Sadly, by the mid 1990s Halloway was in terrible  condition and universally scorned by female students. Although many people called for the building to be bulldozed and a female version of the Danford dorm built in its lot, history buffs rallied a few wealthy alumni to save the grand old home. With their sponsorship, campus officials hired an architectural preservationist to oversee a major renovation.

Over the next 24 months contractors tore out much of the shoddy or gaudy additions (including–I kid you not–moldy green shag carpet) and restored old Halloway to its original architectural glory. During this period, rumors surfaced that construction workers made more than a few unexpected discoveries such as a “weird design” under some wallpaper and an “unusual symbol” painted on the wooden floor hidden beneath some carpet. One construction worker even claims to have found human remains inside a wall, but campus officials insist that what he was were bones from a trapped an animal.

Regardless of any idiosyncrasies uncovered during renovation, the preservationists did a marvelous job of erasing all signs of Halloway’s bumpy past and restoring it to its former glory. When completed, the building featured beautifully restored wooden floors, comfortable private suites, modest but classical bathrooms, fire safety features, and a state-of-the-art security system. After its grand reopening Halloway skyrocketed from the butt of jokes to the most sought-after female dorm on campus. At only 24 rooms, it is the most exclusive and expensive dorm on campus.

Those ladies lucky enough to be residents of Halloway Suites tend to be an extremely tight-knit group. Sadly, that has lead to unkind things said out of jealousy.  Depending on who you talk to, students have claimed that Halloway is haunted, that the residents are witches, or that an invitation to Halloway requires membership in an all-female secret society.

Well the Spring semester came to a close and a few thousand relieved graduates crossed the stage at the end of the Roost stadium. Campus was quiet for a few weeks between sessions, but now the summer session is in swing and prospective freshmen are again wandering the campus in wide-eyed innocence. I reckon that means it’s time to resume our own Campus Tour highlighting interesting spots on campus.

Truth be told, most tours for prospective students start at the Edgar Garland Student Center. The student center was completed in 1969 and is a popular campus destination for killing time. From the outside it may look like just another plain, two-story, rectangular building. Inside, students can get their fast food fix in the food court, pick up necessities in the overpriced convenience store, buy and sell textbooks at the bookstore, and avoid studying at the small movie theater or game room. In fact, if you come to college without wheels you can find just about anything you need (or at least the essentials) without ever having to drive off campus.

In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the first floor, the quieter second floor hosts offices related to some student services and various sized meeting rooms used by clubs, study groups, and the occasional couple looking for privacy.

While all of those features are fine, most student agree that the best part about the student center has nothing to do with what’s indoors, but what isn’t. You see, deeper inside lies a huge, open courtyard with a fountain, modest shade trees, and patio furniture. Although the building walls block much hope of a breeze, the trickling  fountain offers relief from oppressive Texas heat and lulls studying students into peaceful torpor. The same can’t be said, however, during football season when fans cram shoulder-to-shoulder for raucous pep rallies and ceremonially dunk the mascot in the fountain.

Although campus legend claims that the courtyard is haunted, level-headed naysayers claim the ghostly voices are only an acoustic trick. After all, to hear anything unusual the courtyard must be near-silent–which usually means at late night when the courtyard is empty–at which time one can sometimes detect phantom conversations presumably funneled from unseen corners of the building. The “courtyard ghost” is also a popular and sometimes elaborate prank, making it even harder to know if there’s a kernel of truth behind the stories. Maybe one day it’ll all be explained.

Regardless of spooky nighttime noises, the student center is a designated “safe zone” and is open 24 hours a day.  Students who feel in danger after dark are encouraged to take shelter there and call campus security. In fact, a sign at the main entrance reminds students of the “triple s”: seek Shelter, stay in Sight, and call Security. As long as you stay alert and play your cards right, one day you’ll be one of those relieved seniors crossing the stage.

From the outside, the most striking features of  ETU’s DuBose Aquatics Center are the bas-relief carvings of sailing vessels and divers which frame the entrance. Students who answer the carvings’ call to adventure find a pleasant but less ostentatious interior. The single-story building offers a training pool for diving and swimming, as well as an Olympic pool with two sets of bleachers. The adjacent outdoor recreational pool is popular with students in the late Spring and early Fall semesters but during the Summer the sun’s rays heat the shallow water to the temperature of a warm bath. At that point students who are desperate to beat the heat usually retreat to the “Lost Pond”, a natural, spring-fed pool in the heart of Pinebox green space known as Crenshaw’s Woods.

Although construction of the the Aquatics Center was completed in 2004, the entrance’s distinctive bas-relief carvings harken from the school’s original natatorium which had been built in Neo-Classical style. The original natatorium was the last campus building to be completed prior to the Great Depression and by the time money finally loosened up again after WWII, architectural trends had changed. Its distinctive, classical design (as well as cool waters) made it a beloved campus landmark. While the outside boasted bas-relief carvings of wooden sailing ships, sea creatures, and brave divers, the interior was every bit as impressive. An enormous statue of King Neptune loomed over visitors in the lobby and both indoor pools were lavishly decorated with murals depicting lifelike mermaids and other sea creatures which alternately beckoned or threatened swimmers.

Sadly, in the late 1950s the beloved natatorium suffered from a seismic event that rendered it structurally unsafe. Administrators arrived to work one morning to find numerous puddles throughout the building and both pools cracked and half-empty. Engineers determined that the soil beneath the foundation had shifted, causing in effect a “mini earthquake”. Not only were the pools cracked, but the foundation and walls as well. Tragically, the beautiful murals overlooking the pools experienced some of the most violent structural damage, looking practically smashed in places. Although the building was condemned for safety reasons and eventually destroyed, students mounted a campaign to save as much of the old building as possible. Unfortunately, with the murals destroyed and the statue of Neptune misplaced in the confusion, little remained that could be salvaged except the bas-relief designs.  These were carefully removed and placed in storage until a replacement natatorium could be built. Ironically, the old site didn’t stay vacant for long. After many surveys and much bulldozing, the Ravens basketball arena–the Roost–was constructed on the site of the old natatorium in the early 60s.

Yet, for nearly 50 years campus politics and shifting priorities pushed a replacement natatorium down the priority list. During this period the swim team trained on open water at Lake Greystone, about which the less said the better. Let’s just say it was “character building”. It wasn’t until a wealthy alumnus with fond memories of the natatorium left a donation for a replacement that a proper swimming facility finally returned to campus. A university archivist eagerly directed architects to the still-warehoused bas-reliefs, allowing designers to create a building that acknowledged earlier times. Sadly, other than the carvings the DuBose Aquatics Center shares little of the glamour of its predecessor. Even so, students are glad for a place to swim on campus and the ETU swim teams are thankful for being able to practice without getting mud between their toes.

Formerly the English building until 1995 when that department moved into the new Lansdale Language Center, this worn   building now serves students in police sciences, pre-law, corrections, and social services. Although superficially renovated after the English department moved out, this somewhat dreary two-storey building still reflects its long use dating back to 1962.

Although the building offers a number of classrooms and faculty offices, the most notable feature of the Criminal Justice Center is a working courtroom used for misdemeanor cases. When the court first opened in 1995 it saw cases for felonies as well but the practice was halted in 1999 when suspected murderer Jeremy Bell managed to take hostage a student court secretary. After a five hour standoff in which Bell and hostage Nicole Allen were barricaded alone in the courtroom, deputies risked storming the room to find Bell dead and his hostage comatose. Although Nicole Allen eventually recovered and finished her degree, she claims amnesia of the event due to traumatic stress.

Although the building offers an elevator to the upper floor, most faculty and students prefer to take the flight of stairs located near the front entrance. Maybe it’s due to the relatively cramped size, the peeling paint, or the series of groans and rattles each time the elevator creaks from one floor to the next, but many people claim to get an unsettling feeling from the time the elevator doors close to the time they open again. Particularly imaginative English majors used to claim that the groans and rattles didn’t come from stressed metal but something wanting in as the car passed through spaces more metaphysical than what could be described between floors. The practical Criminal Justice majors that followed scoff at the idea as drug-fueled hallucinations from hippy English majors. Still, few use the elevator.

 

This five-story brick building built in 1949 was named after a Russian scientist who defected to the US and made the college his home. Although Dr. Abrimov’s defection to Pinebox was celebrated at the time, within five years he had created a reputation for a level of belligerence that matched his astronomical intelligence. Even his colleagues joked that perhaps he hadn’t defected but rather foisted upon the US. The scientist’s laboratory was moved from the top floor to the second basement, where he continued his research until his death–officially ruled a lab accident–in 1961.

The somewhat grungy and ill-lit lecture halls in the Abrimov Sciences building still service undergraduate classes in Chemistry and Biology. Although the learning labs were renovated in the 1980s, the facilities barely meet modern safety requirements. By contrast the two basement levels were completely renovated in 2004 thanks to a Homeland Security grant. Today researchers look for ways to rapidly react to potential bio-terrorism vectors. Although ETU administrators insist that nothing harmful is kept in the basement levels, only faculty researchers and trusted graduate students are allowed on those floors.