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Reflections: OU should prioritize preservation of its historic buildings

Every morning, right around 7 a.m., the sunlight hits The Ridges just right. Its dark red bricks look a bit brighter, and I can see the light gleaming off its black metal gilding. From my ninth story view, it is my favorite thing to wake up to, save for the sunrise. Its architectural design is beautiful, but – because of my love of history – I like it mainly for its gothic features.

Much of Athens and Ohio University looks like The Ridges. Brick exteriors and homely designs, there is certainly an aesthetic that simply feels as if it is from a different time. While many universities have adopted more modern, sleek looks, we have kept aesthetics that remind visitors of earlier days. 

In my opinion, it’s both beautiful and tactical. Athens and OU have a signature look, something that differentiates it from other college towns and universities. And it’s paid off; just last year, our main quad was ranked second among others. Additionally, many students are drawn to the area because of this signature look.

Which is why OU and Athens should try, at all costs, to preserve the quaint spirit architects have infused into our buildings. Just last semester, we saw the destruction of Scott Quad, a unique building on the heart of campus. 

In 1974, the City of Athens tore down Berry Hall, formerly Berry Hotel, a building rich in architectural distinctness and African American history. 

And, just a few months ago, OU revealed its plan for The Ridges. The Ridges Development Advisors have emphasized their focus on preserving The Ridges and the wildlife area surrounding it as they convert the buildings into apartments. In addition, the report advocated for expanding recreational activities.

I believe that this plan is the best possible outcome for The Ridges, and is what historic preservation should be all about. Reusing available space, leaving the environment intact and maintaining as much of the original designs as we can.

After we see the success of this plan, I hope the same ideas will be extended to other empty yet historic buildings on campus. Haning Hall, built in 1906, and Lasher Hall, built in 1925, stand empty on west campus. As of last year, the Board of Trustees was considering demolishing these buildings. While it would be a significant investment to maintain and modernize these buildings, if The Ridges can be preserved, it is ultimately worth it to preserve Haning Hall and Lasher Hall. 

Because, after all, once buildings are demolished, there is no putting them back.

Colleen McLafferty is a junior studying history at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Colleen by tweeting her at @colleenbealem.

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