Recognized for their superior design when they were built in the late 1960s, Statesman Towers — the tallest buildings on campus — would be undone because of their massive size. Officials say the design of the buildings and their inefficiencies prompted them to raze the structures rather than renovate them.
Over the years, the Statesman Towers had become a distant part of the landscape at Indiana State University. Once set in the northeast corner of campus, the twin 15-story towers have been reduced to a memory of their 47-year history.
For some Sycamores, the Statesman Towers were where they took their first college class, and for others, it was their first residence hall. Before being transitioned into the Bayh College of Education in 1977 and the Scott College of Business in 1980, the towers were home to 1,152 residents as Colfax, Marshall, Fairbanks and Hendricks Halls. Named for the first four Hoosier representatives to go on and hold the office of the vice president of the United States, the towers were built to handle increasing enrollment in the late 1960s.
Dedicated April 17, 1969, under university president Alan C. Rankin, the residence halls were the tallest structures on campus. While the original design called for four buildings, only two were ever built. The towers housed male residents on the second through eighth floors and female residents on the ninth through 15th floors, with dining on the ground level. The design of the buildings won architects Ewing Miller Associates Inc. a first place award from the Indiana Society of Architects and marked the first time a university building had been given the prize.
The halls welcomed their first residents in September 1968, but just 10 years later, the buildings had found a new purpose. The west tower became the home of the College of Education and the east tower held the College of Business. In 2009, renovations to University Hall, formerly the Laboratory School, were completed and the Bayh College of Education relocated a few blocks southwest. It was discussed that the colleges would share the old Lab School, but that issue resolved itself when the building that is now Federal Hall was given to the university by the government. In August 2012, after a five-year refurbishment project, the one-time federal building at Seventh and Cherry streets became the Scott College of Business, where they have been housed ever since.
Since the relocation of those two colleges, Statesman Towers were vacant to all but the peregrine falcons that lived atop the cliff-like structures. According to Steven Lima, an Indiana State biology professor who has been monitoring the falcons, the pair of once-endangered animals had been living there for a few years. Despite efforts to move their nest box to another building in early 2015, the birds did not completely leave until demolition was underway. Lima reassured that while, “you don’t know which parts of the ecosystem are important until you lose them but I suspect that (the Statesman Towers’) absence won’t be an issue for the falcons.”
Administrators agree the demolition of these buildings is in the best interest of the university and that it won’t have lasting effects on campus itself. A rather important decision-making factor was the need to reduce the amount of State’s gross square footage to be more in line with other institutions in the state. While the parking surrounding the site will remain intact, the space where the Towers once stood will provide campus with additional green space.
Regardless of their place in the history of Indiana State as award-winning designed residence halls, the buildings proved to be “inadequate and inefficient as academic facilities,” said Diann McKee, senior vice president for finance and administration. The structures no longer met the needs of students or professors as a classroom setting and lacked ability to adapt to ever-changing methods of instruction and technology. Additionally, because of the university’s commitment to being environmentally responsible, the buildings’ energy wastefulness became obvious.
Ironically, the towers’ size, their most undeniable trait, was the root of their issues with inefficiency and led to their demolition. According to Bruce McLaren, the associate dean for the Scott College of Business, “a lot of that old building was wasted space. It was too large.” The towers were so large, in fact, that while being used as classroom and office space, the top four floors were vacant.
Renovation to the buildings would have been costly and wouldn’t have given students and professors the results needed to provide the best educational experience possible, officials say. Eventually, mechanical demolition was chosen to dismantle the buildings, and in May 2015 an 8,000-pound wrecking ball began swinging away.
McLaren worked in the Statesman Towers during the College of Business’ tenure there. In his 12 years as the building coordinator, he came to know the ups and downs of the towers better than most.
Many classrooms in the Statesman Towers were long and thin, so instructors were often too far away from students to provide helpful demonstrations. These features were taken into account when designing University and Federal halls. Both academic buildings possess wider and shorter classrooms so that professors are closer to students. They also utilize tables as opposed to desks to encourage collaboration on projects and offer more room for students’ laptops. There is a noticeable amount of “third space,” such as lobbies with seating and tables in both halls that inspire accidental interaction with other students and offer the convenience of meeting space.
“It’s about improvement, and the building just wasn’t working for us,” said McLaren. “We took a lot of lessons away from those towers, and we have better halls because of it.”