Renovation of Senior Walk's First 50 Years Scheduled to Begin This Month
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A major renovation of two of the University of Arkansas’ most historic spaces – the first 50 years of Senior Walk and the east plaza of Old Main – is scheduled to begin later this month. The work is scheduled to be completed later this year, possibly before the start of the fall semester.
Sections of the plaza at the east entrance of Old Main, facing Arkansas Avenue, and the first 50 years of Senior Walk have deteriorated over the past few years, causing safety and accessibility issues. Original names have also begun fading to the point of being illegible.
To address these safety concerns and to help preserve these historic areas, the U of A will soon begin work to renovate and reconstruct the first 50 years of Senior Walk and the adjacent plaza, replacing them with new versions in the same location.
“These spaces and the history they represent are very important to all of us, and we want to make sure that they remain accessible features on our campus for generations to come,” said Mike Johnson, associate vice chancellor for facilities. “The significance of this project and the process of preserving the original walk requires a delicate approach.”
The current brick and concrete in front of Old Main will be replaced with sandstone to match the steps of Old Main, which were renovated as a part of a separate project completed in 2016.
The original first 50 years of Senior Walk, which includes classes from 1876 through 1924, has been thoroughly documented and portions of the original walk will be preserved for a future exhibit on campus.
While those plans have yet to be finalized, one possibility includes a permanent exhibit in the first-floor corridor of Old Main near where Senior Walk originated.
“We’re working closely with the University of Arkansas Museum to determine the best method to preserve and display original pieces of the walk,” Johnson said.
Additional plans to add historical markers along the site of the original Senior Walk are ongoing as well.
Students started the tradition of adding names to the sidewalk, beginning with the class of 1905. However, the class of 1904 was impressed with the unique idea of imprinting their names in the sidewalk and asked if they could add their class. That class then became the first hand-lettered block in the walk.
Through 1924, the classes were hand-drawn into the wet concrete each year by one of the class members. In 1925, the university took over installation, using raised-letter stamps to impress the names in the concrete. In 1930, names from the graduating classes from 1876-1903 were added to the plaza in front of Old Main. In the 1970s, the task of mechanically imprinting names into wet cement took so long that workers in Facilities Management created a new machine called the Sand Hog, which sandblasts new names into hardened sidewalk.
The university has been tracking the deterioration of the first 50 years of Senior Walk since 2013 and has noticed an accelerated level of weakening and crumbling. Beginning the project now will allow more pieces of the original walk to be preserved for future generations while addressing the current and growing safety concerns.
The lawn of Old Main was officially added to the UA Campus Historic District as a historic landscape in 2009 and includes Senior Walk.
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3% of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.
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