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University of Chicago Sets a Date for Pierce Hall Demolition

By Sam Cholke | July 17, 2013 8:34am
 Pierce Hall at the University of Chicago, slated for demolition, had many problems, including leaky pipes.
Pierce Hall at the University of Chicago, slated for demolition, had many problems, including leaky pipes.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — The Pierce Hall dormitory on the University of Chicago campus is cleared of students for the summer and fencing is now going up in preparation for its Aug. 19 demolition.

Students in the smallest rooms on campus complained that the 10-story building at 5514 S. University Ave. was deteriorating, and the U of C decided to tear it down and build a new dorm on the site.

The dorm was built in 1960 in the Brutalist architectural style with poured concrete walls that caused pictures to sporadically come crashing down for students foolish enough to try to hammer in a nail.

But the defining two-story lounges ringed by dorm rooms created a communal atmosphere prized by many students who lived in the Tufts, Henderson, Thompson and Shorey subdivisions of Pierce.

“It’s really sad to see it go,” said Yihao Jiang, a second year economics major, when the university announced its decision in December.

The strong sense of community among the residents also helped students push for repairs to un-insulated steam pipes, broken door locks and unreliable elevators.

“On the floor there were rivers of excrement and urine and pieces of porcelain,” said Michelle Rodriguez, a member of student government, who, after a toilet exploded, helped pressure the university to address problems at Pierce.

The university opted instead to demolish Pierce and build a new dorm on the site and the adjoining North Field recreational area that better meets the expectations of current students.

“The long-term future of our College depends upon a residential system that is spatially capacious, attractive to all of our students and integrated into the special intellectual culture of the university,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College, in a prepared statement.

The new dorm is expected to open in 2016, but the university has not yet released designs or said if it will keep the Pierce name.

The dorm was named for former Maroon halfback Stanley “Schnitz” Pierce, who left much of his fortune to the university buried in his backyard as gold coins.