- Associated Press - Sunday, June 15, 2014

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Historic preservationists are objecting to redevelopment plans at the University of Nevada, Reno that could result in the demolition of a pair of residence halls built more than a century ago.

Lincoln and Manzanita halls are among 13 buildings on the campus that are part of a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in the 1890s, university officials have raised concerns in the past that the aging dormitories don’t meet modern construction standards for earthquake safety.

School officials said earlier this month they want to tear down Lincoln Hall to make room for new student housing. The plan calls for either turning Manzanita Hall into office space, or demolishing it as well.

“If the plan is to demolish most or all of either of these buildings, I think that is very distressing,” Reno historian Alicia Barber said.

“We can’t expect historic buildings to meet the seismic standards of new construction, but that does not mean they can’t be made serviceable and safe,” she told the Reno Gazette-Journal (https://tinyurl.com/p9j4lu6).

The new residence hall to replace Lincoln Hall would house up to 400 students. It would be built so its southern end incorporates existing portions of Lincoln Hall, possibly keeping intact its “entrance, porch, dormers and/or cupola,” UNR officials said. The interior of the entire building would involve new construction.

Barber said incorporating elements of a historical building with new construction “destroys the historical integrity and authenticity of the original structure, creating an architectural Frankenstein.”

Grant Kent, director of the Nevada Seismology Laboratory on the UNR campus, said the two aging dormitories would be “poor performers” in the event of an earthquake because the floors are made of timber and the walls consist of reinforced masonry.

“I personally embraced the decision to move forward and not have them as residence halls,” he said.

Barber, a member of Preserve Nevada, said while safety is of the utmost importance, there are very few unreinforced buildings that cannot be seismically retrofitted to significantly enhance their safety.

“This has been accomplished for buildings ranging from the Mackay School of Mines to the Vatican,” she said.

Barber recommends UNR hire a nationally recognized expert on the retrofitting of historic buildings to determine what it would require to save Lincoln and Manzanita halls.

“The fact they have not done this already is an indication they are not even considering restoration,” she said. “It is very surprising that the university has not tried to engage anyone in the historic preservation community or the university’s alumni.”

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, https://www.rgj.com


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