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State to evaluate TWU house

Profile image for By Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer
By Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer

Before Texas Woman’s University can begin planning for the demolition of its University House, the Texas Historical Commission must evaluate the property’s historical and architectural significance.

Last week, the TWU Board of Regents approved the demolition of the University House and the construction of a new residence for the chancellor, but regents did not address working with the state commission.

Since TWU is a public university and the house is more than 50 years old, the commission’s staff must evaluate the house’s significance, according to the Antiquities Code of Texas. The building is not a State Antiquities Landmark, so the commission cannot stop the project, just offer suggestions, said Elizabeth Brummett, the agency’s state coordinator for project review.

“If we deem it historically significant, we would certainly encourage them to look at other alternatives to fulfill their goals,” she said.

A “local concerned citizen” reported the planned demolition to the commission June 20, Adam Alsobrook, a project reviewer for the agency, wrote in an e-mail.

In an e-mail sent to Donald Strickland, TWU’s director of design and construction services, Alsobrook wrote that the university must notify the commission at least 60 days prior to demolition and that staff would evaluate the historic and architectural significance.

The notification is required 60 days before the project is planned to begin, so it is not necessarily required to notify the commission after decision-making boards approve projects.

“Depending on what the timeline for the project is, it wouldn’t necessarily be right after the vote,” Brummett said.

Brenda Floyd, TWU’s vice president of finance and administration, said that the university has not planned the date of demolition but plans to notify the commission of the project this week.

“Once our agency receives project documentation from TWU, our architectural historians will then evaluate the building and respond to TWU under the Antiquities Code of Texas,” Alsobrook said in an e-mail.

Floyd said she does not foresee the process interfering with the project or creating additional work for the university, and noted the university has not yet spoken with a commission representative.

“We will work with the Texas Historical Commission to let them see what we’re doing,” she said.

The house was built in 1954 and designed by Arch Swank, who worked extensively with architect O’Neil Ford.

The two worked on several notable pieces in Denton, said Beth Stribling, a member of the Denton County Historical Commission.

“Some of the most beautiful, stately buildings that we have in Denton are on our university campuses, and unfortunately because the universities are constantly needing to make changes to adapt and adjust to student enrollment and meet their needs, we are losing some of these buildings,” Stribling said.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.