Old Main and First 50 Years of Senior Walk Reopen After Renovation

Old Main Senior Walk and Plaza
Breanna Lacy

Old Main Senior Walk and Plaza

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Old Main and the first 50 years of Senior Walk have reopened after months of renovations to the plaza and original walk.

The projects began after the University of Arkansas Facilities Management department started tracking the deterioration of the first 50 years of Senior Walk and noticed an accelerated level of weakening and crumbling in 2013. This created safety and accessibility issues, and the names were at risk of fading to the point of being illegible. To address these safety concerns and to help preserve these historic areas, the decision was made to replace the walk and Old Main plaza.

The replacement of the Senior Walk was funded in part by an Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) grant awarded in 2019.

The original Senior Walk was replaced with high-grade monumental concrete, reinforced with steel bar, and the original names sandblasted according to how they were originally written. Bronze numbers were added for all previous years to match the current numbers used for Senior Walk. The concrete and other materials chosen for this portion of the project are the same as those used when building monuments and will endure for many years to come. 

To help preserve the history of the Senior Walk, sections of the original names were kept and will hang in a future exhibit in Old Main which will highlight the history of Senior Walk.

The plaza of Old Main, facing Arkansas Avenue, was also facing deterioration and safety concerns as the bricks shifted and became uneven. Sandstone was chosen to replace the former brick plaza, which was designed to match the steps of Old Main. An inscribed granite piece connecting the two projects has been added as a transition between the plaza and Senior Walk.

The Spoofer's Stone, which incurred some damage during construction, has been repaired and remains in its long-time location. An additional crushed granite border will be added to highlight the stone.

"This was an important project that required a thoughtful approach," said Mike Johnson, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management. "It was essential for us to honor the history of Senior Walk and Old Main while also creating a safe environment. We're really happy with the result and believe the campus will be too."

Additional plans to add historical markers along the site of the original Senior Walk are ongoing. Old Main lawn, including Senior Walk, was officially added to the UA Campus Historic District as a historic landscape in 2009.

An official dedication ceremony will be scheduled later as part of the sesquicentennial celebration.

Senior Walk

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 etching their names into the sidewalk and asked if they could add their class. That class 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 1980s, 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.

Contacts

Breanna Lacy, communications coordinator
Facilities Management
479-575-6044, bllacy@uark.edu

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