Students protest Mumford House relocation

Drew Stone The Daily Illini Brad Gregorka, a first-year masters student in the college of Fine and Applied Arts, holds a sign as part of a human chain encircling the historic Mumford House on March 4, 2009. Gregorka is part of a group that is against the Universitys plans to relocate the house, which has been in its current location since 1870.

Drew Stone The Daily Illini Brad Gregorka, a first-year master’s student in the college of Fine and Applied Arts, holds a sign as part of a human chain encircling the historic Mumford House on March 4, 2009. Gregorka is part of a group that is against the University’s plans to relocate the house, which has been in its current location since 1870.

By Kevin McLoughlin

Students, faculty and Champaign-Urbana residents linked hands around Mumford House on Wednesday afternoon to protest the University’s proposal to move the 139-year-old farmhouse to a location south of Windsor Road.

The Morrow Plots and the Mumford House, which is located between McFarland Memorial Bell Tower and Temple Hoyne Buell Hall, are the only remnants of the experimental farm that once sprawled over the South Quad.

The University and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will be holding a mediation committee meeting March 19 regarding the proposed relocation. It is the final stage of the legal process required to move such a building.

Around 40 participants took part in the rally. Architecture students and local preservationists made up the majority of the group, although some faculty members were present.

Tim Penich, graduate student and president of the Society of Architectural Historians, thanked participants before they formed a human chain around the building. Participants chanted “Save Mumford” before dispersing to discuss the issues at hand.

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“You’re losing the tie to our past, of what an agrarian state Illinois was,” said Richard Cahill, former president of the Preservation and Conservation Association.

Cahill said the University should find a use for Mumford House in its present location, such as an interpretive center for the history of the South Quad.

Others brought up concerns about the University’s motives.

“They say it’s because it’s in poor condition,” said Kim Gareiss, graduate student and treasurer of Society of Architectural Historians. “But it’s in poor condition here, and it’ll be in poor condition there.”

Gareiss said many participants believed the University wants to move the building to allow pathways to be built around the McFarland Memorial Bell Tower. While the University has not explicitly said that, Gareiss said that proposed plans showed pathways going straight through Mumford House’s current location.

Anthony Larson, junior in ACES and vice president of the Students for Environmental Concerns, said it would cost around $2 million to renovate Mumford House. The additional cost of moving it would be an excessive investment, especially considering the state of the economy, he said.

The estimates from Facilities and Services place the total cost for renovation at $1.5 million, with an additional $198,000 to relocate it.

Melvyn Skvarla, campus historic preservation officer, expressed concerns that the current Mumford House does not allow sufficient access for the physically impaired, making it invalid for use as a University building.

“A new ancillary facility would have to be built immediately adjacent to the house to accommodate these facilities at still additional costs,” he said, adding that the Mumford barn, already relocated to the proposed site, is equipped with these accommodations.

Skvarla also said Mumford House was never connected to the Morrow Plots and served more of an aesthetic function than the educational one it could serve in the new location. He said the new location would be more accessible to the rest of Champaign-Urbana; its present location on the South Quad is not accessible to vehicles.

Skvarla also denied that the relocation of Mumford House was motivated by the plans for the McFarland Memorial Bell Tower. He said that ACES is the only college to show interest in the building, but this is contingent upon the building’s relocation.

Penich said that ACES would still have to raise funds to finance Mumford House’s restoration. He maintained that the Mumford House can be used on campus and, as the University’s oldest building, should be kept in its original location. Penich said the money for relocation would be better spent preserving the building until funding can be found for its renovation.

He urged members of the community to send letters opposing the relocation to the Board of Trustees, which will meet March 11.