Over the summer, McConaughy Hall (MoCon) disappeared from Wesleyan’s skyline, leaving behind a slope of dirt that was recently covered in large patches grass. Demolition of the building began in May following the Commencement of the Class of 2010, the last class to have enjoyed their meals in the beloved building, and was completed in August, with a final cost of just over $650,000.
“It was very sad to see it come down,” said President Michael Roth. “Although I was responsible for the decision, I didn’t take any pleasure in it.”
Immediate plans for the site are to leave it as green space but it will likely be used to build new student housing eventually, according to Associate Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe.
The entire building was dismantled with the exception of one retaining wall, which was used to support the Foss Hill Circle, according to Topshe. The site was then filled, countered, and covered in topsoil.
The proposed demolition sparked much debate last spring, as many students and alumni challenged the decision to destroy the University landmark. Some, however, questioned the economic practicality of renovating MoCon, which would have likely cost more than the demolition and reconstruction of a new structure.
“It seemed like it may have been in the student body’s best interest to have the money spent elsewhere, especially if [MoCon] wasn’t functional, if it was unsafe to occupy,” said Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) representative and student seat on the Major Maintenance Committee Zach Malter ’13.
Malter suggested that areas such as financial aid are perhaps better places to direct funding.
Topshe pointed out other economic benefits of demolition as well.
“The project acted to help boost a local industry marked by unemployment where nearly one out of three construction workers is out of work,” Topshe wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.
Miles Bukiet ’11, who pushed for the preservation of MoCon last year, said that while he thinks the University’s decisions ultimately made sense in many ways, he thinks the University may have benefited from organizing a larger-scale forum with students and others interested in the future of MoCon in order to brainstorm possible alternative uses for the building.
“It would have been great if there was more time to think it through,” he said.
Bukiet suggested that, although it became clear that MoCon was not viable as a location for dorms or office space, it could have perhaps been used as a facility for a bike co-op, the Waste Not Tag Sale, or other programs that do not require a heated space.
“It could have been a funkier space,” he said, comparing MoCon to the Westco Café, a more accessible venue for student events and concerts than comparably expensive sites like Beckham Hall.
Malter said that he hopes to prevent, rather than react to, controversial demolition issues in the future.
“I think now what we need to be aware of is making sure that similarly historic and important buildings don’t suffer the same fate,” Malter said. “So that means anticipating two or three or four years in advance that the building is deteriorating and trying to save it before the point of no return.”