Texas Woman’s University will continue planning to demolish and rebuild the University House, even though the Texas Historical Commission has recommended retaining and preserving the nearly 60-year-old house.
In a letter to Don Strickland, TWU director of design and construction, Adam Alsobrook with the commission wrote that the property is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Also, the letter states, the building is locally significant because it’s an education-related historic resource and is an architectural example of modernism.
Though the commission deemed the house historic, it does not have the authority to stop the university’s plans, said Gregory Smith, the national register coordinator for the commission.
“We reviewed this under the Texas State Antiquities Code because it’s state property and the antiquities code protects publicly owned property throughout the state, but it specifies that these buildings must be designated landmarks to be offered the full protection of the code,” Smith said. “It’s not already a state antiquities landmark, so we don’t have any further review authority over this project.”
Brenda Floyd, TWU vice president of finance and administration, declined to comment on the updated situation, but university spokeswoman Amanda Simpson said, “Our plans haven’t changed, and we’re moving forward with the plans to demolish the University House.”
During a Board of Regents meeting in mid-June, the board unanimously approved the plan to demolish the University House and rebuild it, allocating $500,000 to the project.
After that meeting, Floyd said renovating the house would require new plumbing and electrical wiring and replacing the roof and kitchen, and it would be too big of a project.
“When you’re working with an older home like that, you get a price based on what the estimators can see, but you never really know until you get into the project what else there might be in terms of what’s needed to be renovated in the infrastructure,” she said at the time.
Regent George Schrader made an official motion during the meeting to add that the demolition and construction of a new building was in the best interest of the university, as renovation plans had been explored but were deemed unfeasible.
At this time, there are no further updates on the project, and it can move forward without the oversight of the commission.
Smith reiterated the importance of the house, which has served as home for four presidents, because of the house’s history at the university. It also holds historical significance because the building was designed by Arch B. Swank, a Dallas architect who had worked closely with renowned architect O’Neil Ford.
“We use the national registry criteria when we evaluate properties such as this, and we determined that it’s eligible,” Smith said. “We would advocate preserving it, or at least looking at alternatives to demolishing it.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.