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Res hall redux

Renovation gives old residence halls new life

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  • Story by Chris Blose
  • Photo by Shane Epping
  • Published: Aug. 14, 2007
Preserved mural

Old and new mix in a renovated McDavid Hall, where murals from different eras line the walls amid new carpeting and paint.

From 1962 until 1966, Herman Harrison called the dorm room at 44 McDavid Hall home. Harrison had everything he needed: easy access to classroom buildings, a cafeteria for meals, and a payphone near his room to call his parents.

Forty-one years later, he had a chance to return. Harrison, who works for the UM System in a building just blocks away from his old haunt, saw an announcement for an Aug. 9 open house showcasing renovations to both McDavid Hall and Hatch Hall.

“I’ve been back in Columbia since 1970 and watched campus grow,” Harrison says, “but I hadn’t been in a dorm since I graduated.”

Those intervening years have made a difference. The $360 million Residential Life Master Plan, approved in 2001, includes new construction and renovation to upgrade existing halls. Harrison’s old payphone, for example, gave way to phone lines in every room. In turn, those now have given way to phone lines only in common areas, since most students have cell phones anyway. Likewise, cable access and Internet connections have replaced Harrison’s TV with rabbit ears.

For Hatch and McDavid halls, though, the biggest change may be the most obvious to visitors and residents: air conditioning. With August temperatures pushing 100 degrees, the blast of cold air couldn’t have come at a better time.

The blend of the past and the present remains, though. Harrison notes that the stairwell and floor near his room look nearly identical to what he remembers from his student days.

Residents from later eras would recognize similarities, too. McDavid hall houses the Fine Arts Residential Community, one of Mizzou’s many unique learning communities. Modern-day students demanded that the work of their past counterparts be maintained — in the form of eight murals that still line the hallways amid the newer touches.

“We keep listening to what our students want,” says Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life. “We learn from them what works and what doesn’t.”

Minor says students want plenty of natural light, plenty of study space and plenty of common areas and meeting spots, all of which are evident in new and renovated halls. More mundane details are equally important: wireless technology, no-scratch and no-buff floors, comfortable and functional furniture, keycard-operated laundry machines and secure doors, and so on.

For a long-time resident like Harrison, the philosophy is evident. “Everything keeps up with the ages,” he says.

Read more in:  On Campus

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012