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University House no more

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

The University House at Texas Woman’s University was demolished and cleared away Monday and Tuesday after resistance from local and state historical agencies.

Plans for a replacement house, which will be home to the incoming president and chancellor of the university, have not yet been finalized, said Amanda Simpson, TWU director of media relations. That project is anticipated to start in four to six weeks and be completed early in the summer of 2014.

The TWU Board of Regents unanimously voted in June to demolish the nearly 60-year-old house after a proposal to renovate the home was quoted at roughly $500,000. Instead, the regents decided that renovation was not feasible and allocated $500,000 to demolish and rebuild the home.

Phyllis Bridges, who has taught at TWU for 42 years, said she thinks regents were trying to get the best property possible for the same expenditure, and that change is part of a university setting.

The University House in question was not the first president’s home on campus and won’t be the last.

“I think that’s just the nature of any evolving, improving campus — that as old things no longer meet the needs of the moment, you have to take those out and create the space that is needed for the present and future,” she said. “I think the president’s home is another aspect of that process that has been going on for 75 years.”

Bridges has served alongside five presidents during her tenure and enjoyed events at the house.

However, it was not free of problems and Bridges remembers pest issues during Carol D. Surles’ time at the home. There was not a restroom on the ground level, presenting challenges for guests with physical disabilities.

“There certainly were problems in the structure of the house,” she said. “We don’t want people to have to struggle to be there. We want to have arrangements so that any citizen can come here with ease.”

Beth Stribling, chairwoman of the Denton County Historical Commission, advocated to save the house and said it didn’t need to be the home of the president to remain in use.

The house, she argued, was historically significant for its architecture and its importance to TWU’s history.

“I’m totally surprised and very disappointed. ... In some way, the university could have repurposed that house to use it in a different way,” Stribling said. “I think it’s the symbolism and part of the traditional campus for many, many years [that] was important.”

While Bridges agreed the building was symbolic, she said TWU has been in the same situation before.

It is always sad to see a building leave campus, Bridges said, but she sees the potential for the new home to hold the same significance to the TWU community as the original.

“Maybe the architecture is less important than the spirit of the place, because the first president’s home was a much different structural style than this home built in the ’50s,” Bridges said. “My hope is we will have that same spirit of community in whatever new building the regents choose to erect for future chancellors.”

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