Newman House in Champaign demolished

By Amanda Graf

Last May, women ranging from the class of 1973 to the class of 2005 gathered to say goodbye to a defining feature of their University experience. Though generations divided, these women, at one time or another, have all lived at Newman House, an all-female dormitory affiliated with nearby Newman Hall, another private residence hall.

The Newman Foundation sold Newman House, located at 505 E. Chalmers St., to the University, which had it torn down last week. The demolition of the House ends a chapter in Newman history but foreshadows big changes for the Catholic residence hall.

“Newman House was such a big part of our college experience, and relationships formed at Newman House have lasted a lifetime,” Sandy Wagner, a House resident from 1973-75, told “Via Newman,” the Newman Hall alumni magazine.

Monsignor Edward J. Duncan, the first director of Newman Hall, bought the House from a fraternity in the late 1960s. Since then, it has been an exclusively female dormitory, housing up to 40 women at a time.

“I loved the atmosphere. It was a great family-style place to live,” said Ann Marie Tschanz, head resident advisor of Newman Hall and senior in Nursing. She said the dormitory felt like a home because it had a large living room where women could gather, talk or play the piano. She even took a brick from the rubble to remember her time there.

“It makes me sad,” Tschantz said. “It definitely was time for either a change or renovations . but it is very sad to go by and see it a big pile of bricks.”

Newman lost 40 spots for incoming students when they sold the house to the University, but the expansion project they are developing will more than make up for this temporary loss.

Mark Randall, Newman’s director of institutional advancement, said they plan to build a two-wing, seven-story addition to the existing Newman Hall. The addition will house approximately 261 students and include a 400-person cafeteria, a caf‚, bookstore, convenience store and lounge area for non-residents.

“We believe we’re going to break ground this fall and be done by 2008,” Randall said.

He presented these expansion plans to former house residents at their farewell gathering in May.

“They were kind of sentimental about it,” Randall said. “It was what defined their Newman experience while they were here, but they also were very supportive of our plans to move forward toward something bigger and brighter, and just increase capacity for what we do.”

Tschanz agreed this is a step in the right direction for Newman Hall.

“It’s going to be an amazing, amazing change for the future,” she said. “I’m excited about it, and even though I won’t be here, I just feel like the work we do toward it now and the way we talk about it now is going to provide for the future.”

Randall said the University put plans on hold to build a parking garage at the site so they can study traffic patterns in the area following the traffic-related death of a student at the corner of Sixth and Chalmers streets last fall.