UI’s historic Mumford House undergoes stabilization

By Aaron Navarro

The University’s oldest building on campus is under construction.

Construction work began on the historical Mumford House on Sept. 30 and is expected to continue until the targeted completion date of Oct. 22. A significant portion of the construction work — removing the West and South additions of the building — occurred Saturday.

Melvyn Skvarla, historical conservation officer and architect for Facilities and Services, said there is a historic background behind the decision to remove parts of the building.

“We’re keeping the house to its period of significance, which the National Register says was 1870-1880,” Skvarla said. “So if we were to keep the house to that period, the natural things to do were to remove the very inappropriate west addition and to remove the south addition.”

Skvarla said the remainder of the project isn’t exactly a full-scale renovation.

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“It’s not really a renovation, it’s a stabilization,” Skvarla said. “We are weatherproofing, weatherizing the remaining portion of the house that’s there to prevent future deterioration of it. We intend to mothball it, in a sense, for later on when there would be a large fundraising effort to do the major restoration work.”

According to Skvarla, the project is funded by money left over from institutional funds originally intended for relocating the entire Mumford House to South Race Street and Lincoln Avenue.

Even though the house’s barn was moved in 2008, the community decided to leave the house at its current location.

After moving the barn, $91,000 was left over, which is being spent on the current work.

Mumford House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, and Skvarla said that is the main reason it still exists.

“For purists in historic preservation, it is the oldest extant building on our campus, having been built in 1870 by a University carpenter,” Skvarla said.

After this month’s construction efforts are complete, the University may have to decide what to do with the building. Skvarla said the House had been abandoned for 10 years because no college on campus wants to use it.

“There is no known use for that house,” Skvarla said. “If there’s a use for that house other than a private residence, we would have to bring that house up to all the building codes of today in terms of accessibility for the physically challenged, in terms of putting in an elevator, in terms of structural loading capacity, and those other requirements. That would cost more than $2 million. There is no college so far who has stepped forward to say we will take over the operations of this house.”

Judith Lateer, communications specialist for Facilities and Services, explained that trying to make the house usable creates another problem.

“To take it up to the current code standards would kind of destroy the historical fabric of it,” Lateer said. “So keeping it as a private residence seems like it’s the only option that anybody can agree on.”

Kristeen Anthonsen, sophomore in LAS, said that preservation of the house really does not matter to her.

“It all depends, if more students would go there then maybe, but I never have a class near there,” Anthonsen said. “I think they should be looking at other things.”