February 7, 2010

The demolition of Garner

garner the morning of demolition
Well, the day I'd been sort of dreading arrived. Above is Garner Apartments, on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus. The picture was taken around 7 am, on the morning of February 6, the date its demolition was set to begin.

garner the morning of demolition
Built in 1969, Garner was, at the time, the tallest building between the northern state line and the city of Houston. More than simply a dormitory, it will be remembered as the building that would light up SFA purple after a victorious sporting event. After the demolition is complete, construction will begin on the two buildings that will take its place. More information from the The Daily Sentinel (I didn't link to the actual article, as they don't archive their articles):

Looming in the skyline next to the Garner Apartments stood its fate - the wrecking ball.

Garner's date with the ball of destruction was slated for 10 a.m., and the excitement of watching Nacogdoches' tallest building become Nacogdoches' tallest pile of bricks began to attract people from around the area to the nearby parking lots on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.

A small crowd had begun to gather a little before 10, all hoping to find a good, safe seat to watch the highly anticipated show.

As the time grew closer, people began to line Wilson Drive, and the surrounding lots filled with even more people ready for the action.

Excitement and anticipation grew as 10 a.m. grew closer, and then passed. Then 10:30 a.m. came and went.

Minutes before 11 a.m., the wrecking ball rose into the air. The crowd sprang to its feet, holding kids, cameras and collective breaths.

The ball slowly swung back, then swung forward - and then lightly tapped the roof. A groan of disappointment could be heard echoing through the crowd.

The crane swung out again and brought the wrecking ball against the side again, this time a little harder.

Again and again the ball smashed against the roof, when large chunks of debris finally began to fall, the crowd yelled and cheered with excitement.

As the minutes passed, rubble slowly poured from Garner as the ball continued to rock against the side. But the show was not a spectacular as many had envisioned.

"I came out here and really wanted to see the building just collapse," said Vincent Davis, an SFA student. "But it has been slow and steady. No real 'wow' factor."

The crowd began to dwindle, settling with the thought that at least they could say they were there when it happened.

"I thought it was going to come down pretty quickly, but it's going to take all day," said Taylor Hawkings, another SFA student. "I recorded the beginning, and if I didn't have stuff to do, I'd probably stay."

Demolition is expected to last over the next three weeks, certainly longer than anyone had planned to watch.

garner from pecan park
A commenter (and former Garner resident) at a previous post about Garner was nice enough to alert me as to the time the demolition was set to begin. So I headed over to the campus, and drove past the fairly large crowd of spectators who had gathered right across the street. I noticed a woman crying, and this was before anything had even started. I headed over to a park across the street from campus, parked, and waited for it all to begin.

The picture above was my view. It seemed like the sun shone on the obsolete structure like a spotlight. Sitting there, I felt as if I was holding its hand (paw), comforting it, much like one might with an elderly pet as it was about to be put down at the end of a long life. Nearly an hour after it was set to begin, the wrecking ball began to swing. I could only bear to watch the first four or five swings, and saw enough rubble and dust fall to the ground, then headed home, sure the building would be gone next time I drove by the campus.

garner at the end
But it seems that the old girl will not go down as easily as at least I expected. The next morning (Sunday), it looked as it does in the picture above. This was the extent of the demolition. I've taken some comfort in the idea that Garner will not give up easily. I suppose I'd imagined something as dramatic as the demolition of the Sands. But unlike that structure (of which Garner has always reminded me), Garner's demise will be slow and ugly.

demolition of garner begins
Morning of Sunday, February 7th, 2010


Anonymous said...

What was the board of regents thinking? IDIOTS. This building did not have to be destroyed. There is ample room for a new dorm and parking garage and Hall 19 could have been used as department offices, visiting parents a top view of the campus and of course the victory light tower. It is as solid as a rock, withstanding 2 hurricanes in recent year - an icon of the 60's, built to last, unlike the new construction on campus.

Chris said...

I hear you loud and clear, but here's the deal, as I see it. Retro = old = moldy and decrepit. The competition for attracting freshmen (the typical dorm resident) to state university is probably fairly fierce. SFA has clearly (and understandably) been trying to make itself as attractive of an option as it can. SFA's board of regents top priority shouldn't be preserving its history. So, down comes the old buildings. It's just a matter of time before all of the old, 60s era buildings come down! And it would appear the strategy is working, as data was released today that SFA is experiencing a record enrollment for this spring semester.

Anonymous said...

Hall 19 did not have to remain a dorm, and because its footprint is so small, there was ample room for a new dorm and a new parking garage as well. It could have been renovated for offices, departments, visiting professors and parents and as a victory tower among other things. If "old" buildings need to make way for new, what about demolishing the Austin and the Rusk buildings next? How about all the Ivy League colleges? Shouldn't those "old" buildings be torn down, too? The 60's buildings have a lot of charm and character, more so than the expensive but cheaply constructed new ones built to last a couple of decades at most. The reason enrollment is high is because of all the government loans being given out - and if you will notice there are a lot of students on campus who aren't educated enough to even be in college! What are they doing here? Quality over quantity. Oh well, it's the East Texas way -

Chris said...

Perhaps you saw last week how the regents decided to raise the minimum required SAT scores (I think I read they were allowing students in who had scored no higher than 650...), apparently not requiring any score at all for certain populations of incoming freshmen.