Four wooden benches, all angled inward, sit at the heart of Scott Quad’s courtyard. They are surrounded by intertwining brick pathways, distinct swatches of grass and the building’s linear walls, creating a landscape that is both connected and contained.
Scott Quad’s unique interior green space added a certain vibrancy to the former residence hall’s atmosphere. The courtyard fostered outdoor recreation while the building’s square design promoted interaction between residents.
Serving as Ohio University student housing for more than 80 years, Scott Quad’s purpose has been redefined over its lifespan. In 2019, Scott Quad welcomed the final group of residents who would ever call the dormitory home. Later, in 2021, OU’s Board of Trustees voted to demolish the building.
The decision was influenced by OU’s budget deficit and backlogged deferred maintenance, in part due to recent personnel reductions that affected OU Facilities Management.
Without “enough people,” the department has seen customer satisfaction drop and the number of work orders that have not been completed in a timely fashion to go up, Steve Wood, chief facilities management officer, said.
That deferred maintenance is not only an administrative challenge, but it also has tangible financial and safety implications. There is $500 million of deferred maintenance that needs to be done to the Athens campus currently, Wood said. $3.4 million of those maintenance costs are contributed by Scott Quad.
After remaining unoccupied for a couple of years, Scott Quad’s exterior is showing signs of its age: the building’s window frames shed white paint flakes, and curtains slip off their rods. Air conditioning units dangle off the building’s sides, relieving themselves of their former roles.
Scott Quad’s spirit is muted now, too, lacking a clear future purpose but still housing memories of lives past.
OU reacts to demolition, remembers Scott Quad
For some, Scott Quad was merely a place to live. For others, it held a more emotional connotation, one that grew with space and time away from the dorm experience.
“I'm sad it's leaving,” Sarah Born, a fourth year studying exercise physiology, said.
Born lived in Scott Quad from 2018 to 2019 and remembers its convenient location and community feel, which she partially attributed to the square building layout.
“I think the shape of it (allowed) you (to) just walk around your floor, and people would always have their doors open, so you would make a lot of friends that way,” Born said.
Research suggests the physical structure of college spaces can influence how interpersonal relationships develop among students. Dorms that “offer shared restrooms and corridors” as well as “highly-visible and easily accessible common areas” foster community building in ways that other style housing, such as suites, do not, according to Gensler, a global architecture firm. Scott Quad’s courtyard and traditional double and triple room layout promoted resident interactions through their design.
Katherine Scott, a resident of Scott Quad from 1972 to 1973, also felt the smaller size and occupancy of the dorm added to its atmosphere.
“There weren't all that many people, so you felt like you knew everybody that lived there,” Scott said.
Although both Scott and Born selected to live in Scott Quad because of a lack of other available options, they ended up enjoying their experiences more than expected. That seemed to be the case for others, too, since Scott Quad usually ended up as a top-ranked dorm in unofficial, student-produced rankings of on-campus housing at OU. A 2017 Odyssey article ranked Scott Quad as the fourth-best freshman dorm, primarily because of its central location.
Born also created lasting friendships in Scott Quad. The person who lived across the hall from her ended up being one of her closest college friends. Because Born favored keeping her door open, her hallmate took the opportunity to introduce herself. The two grew so close that they chose to room together sophomore year and now live at the same apartment complex in Athens.
Scott Quad is not only a space but also a vessel for memories, and its planned demolition evoked sadness from some former residents.
“I texted my roommate, my best friend growing up, and I was like, ‘What do you remember about Scott Quad? They're tearing it down,’” Scott said. “She sent a little crying emoji.”
A storied space
When Scott Quad was built in 1937, it contained just two sections, the north and west. The other two sides of the square dormitory would not be completed until 1950. Initially, Scott Quad was an all-male dorm.
Ken Steinhoff lived in Scott Quad from 1967 until 1968. He recalled the residence hall had also previously served as an all-women’s dorm, which he could tell by the lack of urinals in communal bathrooms. A standout moment of progress for Steinhoff occurred when the university installed telephones in each Scott Quad dorm room, giving residents the luxury of privacy, which was not afforded by the shared payphones in the dorm’s corridors.
The composition of Scott Quad’s residents also changed over its 84 years of existence. The dorm was once home to army training units, an entirely-female population and even actor Paul Newman, according to a 2021 OU News Report. Scott Quad also became a co-ed residence hall in the 1960s, the first of its kind at OU.
Throughout the 2000s, Scott Quad’s residential halls were located on the second and third floor, above the OU Police Department and other offices.
“It definitely looks the same; it's a little bit different not seeing like the cop cars out there,” Born said.
For recent residents, the dorm has remained recognizable, but that was not necessarily the case for older residents.
Steinhoff returned to OU in 2013, nearly half a century after he had lived in Scott Quad. Standing on the University Terrace sidewalk, his eyes scanned the once familiar campus, searching for payphone booths that used to indicate to him that he was near Scott Quad. Instead, Steinhoff was surrounded by students on cell phones and a realization of times changed.
Today, Steinhoff runs an archival blog website, attempting to document the past through written histories and photographs. A number of his posts memorialize stories that happened within the walls of Scott Quad and other former OU buildings.
“I can feel sorry that they’re gone, but I feel like through photographing, through holding onto that film for half a century or more, I’ve preserved them,” Steinhoff said.
Scott Quad’s history contributed to the narrative told by the built landscape of OU. Although demolition of the former dorm will not inherently destroy that history, the assignment of a new function to the space does change its meaning.
Envisioning the future
With the demolition of Scott Quad approved, OU administration has begun envisioning uses of the future space. Like residents of the hall recognized while living there, Scott Quad’s central position makes access to many of OU’s resources easier. Because of that location and its current vacancy, OU decided the space could be better used. OU facilities, planning and real estate administrators envision Scott Quad’s future purpose to serve a “high-use” area, existing in connection with Park Place and “the engagement and science core.”
“In the case of Scott Quad … like the other buildings, we were evaluating the priority on campus, how the space was being used, how the space aligned to what would be needed in the future,” Wood said. “It’s an old residence hall and … the cost to not just restore it to what it is but to renovate it to a usable function to the university became prohibitive.”
Because it is an old hall that housed more than 80 years of OU students, most former Scott Quad residents expressed sadness at the decision to demolish it. However, they also recognized that change was an essential component in the life cycle of spaces.
Jneanne Hacker, interim executive director of OU housing and residence, has been at OU for more than 30 years. She is able to experience the feeling accompanying visible changes to campus dually, as a former student who lived in a now-demolished dorm and a current employee tasked with making decisions about the future of current dorms.
“It plays on the heartstrings a little bit,” Hacker said. “But, for me, I know that there's typically vision. We know that even though the vision might not be immediate that there is vision, and it really leads into a larger plan that our future students will benefit as a result of making those decisions.”
As that “vision” of the reimagined Scott Quad becomes more concrete, the space will begin to accumulate a new history — beginning the cycle again.