Eliot comes down, making way for new residence hall

It took two years to build and mere seconds for it to come down, floor by floor. The last remaining high-rise on Washington University’s South 40, Eliot Residence Hall was demolished just after 10 a.m. Saturday, June 21, to make way for new student housing.

The implosion of Eliot Residence Hall.
The implosion of Eliot Residence Hall.

As hundreds of Washington University students, faculty, staff, neighbors and alumni — including some who once lived in Eliot — watched, the 12-story, 38-year-old brick structure was imploded, leaving behind a dust cloud that quickly dissipated and a heap of rubble.

With the implosion of Eliot Residence Hall, the comprehensive plan for Washington University students living on the South 40 to feel a greater sense of community is almost complete. Part B of the Phase 2 housing project on the South 40 is under way with the demolition of Eliot Residence Hall by Spirtas Wrecking Co. and Dykon Blasting Corp. providing the explosives.

A new residential hall will be built in the same place and will retain the Eliot name, which honors William Greenleaf Eliot, the university’s co-founder.

When complete, the new Eliot will be the final residence hall of seven four-story buildings to be constructed under Phase 1 and Phase 2. Other phases could be planned in the future. The seven buildings will have a total of 1,107 beds.

The plan continues the residential college model on campus. Residential colleges are communities of about 300 students that aim to provide an enhanced sense of kinship, expanded program choices, increased faculty and staff presence, and support and additional common areas for study and gatherings.

Phase 1 of the plan began in 1998 and consisted of three new buildings with a total of 450 beds; Phase 2, which will be completed following the construction of the new residence hall, will total 657 beds.

Phase 1 constituted the first residential college, named the William Greenleaf Eliot College in recognition of Eliot’s leadership in founding the university and his commitment to the institution as chancellor from 1872 until his death in 1887. The three buildings making up the residential college are the Elizabeth Gray Danforth House, the Ethan A.H. Shepley House and the Burton M. Wheeler House.

The second residential college on the South 40 was named the Robert S. Brookings College, and includes Kate M. Gregg House and Arnold J. Lien House.

A sixth residence hall, Howard Nemerov House, stands alone but will become part of a yet-to-be named residential college with the seventh, and final, residence hall to be built.

The new 53,500-square-foot building will house freshmen in double, semi-suite rooms with 170 beds when it opens for the fall 2004 semester. Its steeply sloped roof, brick facade and residential-style windows similar to an upscale apartment community will blend seamlessly with the current residence buildings on the South 40.

Bathrooms in all buildings serve a maximum of four students. Large student rooms have carpeting, ample storage space, cable TV, voice, data and power outlets, acoustical separation, better lighting and individual HVAC control. Buildings also contain common spaces for study rooms and activity areas.

Mackey Mitchell Associates, a St. Louis-based architecture, planning and interiors firm, is the campus planner and designer of the new residential colleges. McCarthy Construction will build the new residence hall.

Eliot Residence Hall, completed in 1965, featured 320 beds in single-, double- and triple-bed rooms. Each floor had its own reading room, while lounges were found on every elevator floor (elevators stopped at every other floor). The architects were Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Inc. (HOK).