A committee comprised of six Mary Washington faculty members and an architect from Burt Hill met March 10 to propose a new campus center site recommendation.
Instead of demolishing Seacobeck Hall, the committee proposed Chandler Hall, home to the psychology and business departments, as the site for the future student center and dining facility. However, the committee agrees Seacobeck should be repurposed to meet the needs of the growing school community.
According to the committee’s recommendation, Seacobeck’s original 1931 Robinson design will be given consideration during the repurposing plans.
Additionally, the committee agrees every effort should be made to retain the clock edifice and columns in front of Chandler in the new design. They also agree that Georgian and Jeffersonian architectural influences should be maintained in the new building.
“The Seacobeck location was not advanced as the primary recommendation due in part to its historical significance,” Doug Searcy, vice president for student affairs and committee chair, said.
According to the committee’s recommendation, Chandler is a better choice for the center because historical integrity has been compromised through previous renovation and additions.
“Dr. Michael Spencer did a great job of detailing the history of the faculty and its relevance to the campus community,” Searcy said.
Spencer, professor of historic preservation, was a member of the committee and helped with the recommendation.
“A lot of [Seacobeck’s] integrity is still there which makes it very important to campus,” Spencer said. “We are going to look at adaption and rehabilitation of the structure. We are looking for something that fits the current footprint of the building.”
According to Spencer, Chandler was originally used as a stand-alone school for the city of Fredericksburg. It allowed education majors to complete their student teaching without leaving campus. At the time, the building was a U-shape. After it was abandoned as a school, UMW hired an architect who filled in the U-shape. Because of this alteration, Spencer said Chandler is not as integral to the school.
“[Chandler] was significant,” Spencer said. “Unfortunately, that association was compromised during the infill and rearrangement process. It’s not that Chandler is awful, but given the opportunity as a preservationist, I choose Chandler as the future site.”
According to Spencer, Seacobeck has a high significance to the school.
“Chandler does not have as much significance and compromised integrity,” he said. “It’s a great compromising strategy. We don’t want to stand in the way of progress, but we are promoting design. Things will change over time, but we want them to change in the best way possible.”
Spencer’s involvement with the committee is important to historic preservation majors on campus.
“I’m excited about the burgeoning relationship between the historic preservation department and the administration,” Emily Morton, a historic preservation major, said.
Students, particularly historic preservation majors, are pleased with this recommendation.
“I think the changes to the Master Plan reflect a more responsible stewardship of our historic resources,” historic preservation major Chris Young said. “The loss of Seacobeck Hall would have irrevocably marred the historic integrity of our campus. I think this gesture is a step forward and broadcasts a positive message about our university.”
“I commend the university for taking into account the opinions of the alumni, students, faculty and community to preserve our valuable historic resources here on campus,” Morton said. “As students we worked so hard to spread the word about our valuable historic resources, so it’s very exciting to hear the results of our efforts have paid off.”
As of now, plans are being considered on where to move the psychology and business departments currently housed in Chandler, but nothing concrete has been decided, according to Searcy.
The recommendations to repurpose Seacobeck and use Chandler as the site for the student center were both reached by a consensus.
According to Searcy, the BOV will review the recommendation at the end of the month.
“If the recommendation is approved by the BOV, plans will be developed for the campus center as well as the function [of] Seacobeck,” Searcy said.