Editorials

For auld lang syne, a last goodbye to UK buildings that are no more

Photographed in 1941, the year it was built with $150,000 from Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren, the Wenner-Gren Aeronautical Laboratory housed researchers developing World War II aircraft engines. Designed in the Streamline Moderne style by University of Kentucky architect Ernst Johnson, the building on Rose Street was used in the 1950s to train chimps for the space program and still housed labs when it was demolished this year to make way for a new science building.
Photographed in 1941, the year it was built with $150,000 from Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren, the Wenner-Gren Aeronautical Laboratory housed researchers developing World War II aircraft engines. Designed in the Streamline Moderne style by University of Kentucky architect Ernst Johnson, the building on Rose Street was used in the 1950s to train chimps for the space program and still housed labs when it was demolished this year to make way for a new science building.

No telling how many courtships, marriages and lifelong friendships, rewarding careers and youthful follies, not to mention late-night outings to Jerry's and Tolly-Ho, were born in buildings that stand no longer at the University of Kentucky.

This year brought the demolition of Boyd, Donovan, Holmes, Keeneland and Jewell residence halls and the 134-year-old Hamilton House to make way for UK's aggressive construction of new state-of-the-art student housing. (The original Haggin Hall went in 2013.)

The historic Wenner-Gren research lab on Rose Street also fell to make way for a new science building.

Most of the lost buildings were designed by Ernst Johnson, a member of UK's engineering faculty and master of modernist design. Johnson's influences included Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen and his own Swedish immigrant father, a brickmason. Johnson worked as a bricklayer to help pay his way through Yale, where he earned an architecture degree.

Thankfully, Johnson's innovative use of brick can still be admired in other UK buildings, including Fine Arts, Funkhouser, the old Student Center and the forever fabulous Memorial Coliseum.

The Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation and others protested the destruction of so much of Kentucky's solidly built history by Kentucky's education flagship — to no avail.

Today's undergraduates, we were assured, demand accommodations and connectivity that the old structures could never be rehabbed to provide.

So, as 2014 fades, we offer a last goodbye to these familiar, yet extraordinary, buildings where so many Kentuckians grew into themselves (or at least advanced somewhat along the path to responsible adulthood).

The title of the Scottish folk song, adapted in 1788 by poet Robert Burns and adopted by multitudes for ringing out the old, translates into "times long past," "days gone by" or "for the sake of old time," all of which seem suitable for the occasion.

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