Chattanooga area alumni of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville who have not been to campus lately might notice some changes around the area of the University Center.
The reason is that three historic buildings – an old apartment building and two former homes -- were recently knocked down at the corner of Volunteer Boulevard and Cumberland Avenue.
The land is being cleared to make way eventually for a large new Student Union to replace the University Center that has been there since the 1950s.
Even students who have been at home since exams ended in early December might be surprised to find a big pile of debris near the corner upon their return.
All three buildings were originally private residences but were later taken over and used by the university.
The largest building, Aconda Court, which was also the last to be torn down, had opened in the early 1920s as a 30-unit apartment building. It once featured a nice central courtyard facing Cumberland Avenue and what is now the law school complex, but had served as various UT offices in recent years.
That building was on the corner of Volunteer Boulevard and Cumberland Avenue.
Just south of it on Volunteer Boulevard in the direction of the Tennessee River/Fort Loudoun Lake was Temple Court. It was built as a home in 1907 but was converted into an apartment building a short time later.
It later became a men’s and then women’s dorm before most recently housing the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, the MARCO Institute, and Lock and Key Services.
Just south of it was another former home that had been built about 1927. It had been a UT home management practice facility in the mid-20th century before becoming the first Black Cultural Center on campus.
On the south side of it is another former home that had served as the residence of industrialist Weston Fulton and was later the UT student hospital. Most recently, it had been the campus’ counseling center.
It is being used by the Rentenbach construction firm building the Student Union but will be torn down along with the old University Center when construction on the second phase of the Student Union begins in 2014.
The first phase of construction on the Student Union is currently under way just south of the current building.
The razing of the three structures was criticized by the non-profit historic preservation group, Knox Heritage, but university officials said students requested a large student union and the campus has limited space for expansion.