2 of 9 historic houses at UConn to be preserved

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STORRS — UConn and the State Historic Preservation Office have reached an agreement over the fate of historic former houses on campus.

The school wanted to knock down nine former fraternity and sorority houses, which haven’t been lived in since 2003. The houses were built on Gilbert Road in 1920 and initially served as faculty housing.

The school planned to use the space as a green area.

However, activists were dismayed that a piece of history would be destroyed.

The two sides came to an agreement on Wednesday to stabilize and preserve two of the nine buildings, but demolish the rest. SHOP must come up with a plan for how to use the buildings within five years, per the agreement.

“I am grateful that all parties were willing to come together and reach this important agreement.  It is a great example of how effective collaboration can result in improved outcomes, both in terms of historic preservation and forward progress at the university,” said Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, which includes the State Historic Preservation Office.

“By preserving these houses, we are keeping an important part of history, not only the university’s but Connecticut’s as well,” said Kristina Newman-Scott, DECD’s Director of Culture.

“We’re pleased that this agreement will allow UConn to continue to meet the goals of its Master Plan for the future while also respecting elements of our past,” said Laura Cruickshank, UConn’s chief architect and master planner.

The agreement also included UConn creating protocol on dealing with future historic buildings.

One of the key activists against the demolition, Margaret McCutcheon Faber, released a statement to FOX 61 about her thoughts on the agreement. “As a preservationist I find this ‘deal’ disappointing. Obviously saving two houses is better than none, and for that I am grateful, but the CONTEXT of Faculty Row is its primary significance. The conglomeration of buildings and mature plantings on Gilbert and Whitney Roads creates a narrative and if we lose 7 of these structures its meaning will also be lost,” she wrote, in part.