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Currier turns 100

BY MITCH MCANDREW | SEPTEMBER 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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As a campus icon and fixture of the community, Currier boasts a rich heritage and fascinating history that reflects that of the university as a whole.

“There isn’t a single alum who didn’t have Currier and other buildings with centurion status as a part of their university experience,” said Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management.

Since its construction, Currier has been largely representative of the university’s commitment to excellence and progress.

“It’s always been ahead of its time,” said Jeffrey Aaberg, the director of facilities and operations for UI Housing and Dining.

From housing women during the early chapters of the women’s rights movements, when it was rare for women to attend college, to housing African American students throughout the civil-rights movements of the 1960s, Currier Hall has embodied the UI’s hospitable and unprejudiced views, Aaberg said.

The hall is the namesake of the highly influential Amos and Celia Currier, professors of classics and Latin in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Amos Currier also served as dean of what would eventually become the UI College of Liberal Arts in the late-19th and early 20th century.

Currier’s first residents consisted entirely of women, a rare occurrence in that time. From the beginning, the residence has been focused on hospitality.

“It was meant to feel, in effect, like a home instead of a dormitory,” Lehnertz said.

The hall managed to do just that.

According to a promotional pamphlet from the mid-1900s, the rooms “[were] lighted by electricity and, with the exception of those on the top floor, [were] supplied with hot and cold running water.”

Currier’s first women, 168 in all, paid just $70 per semester to live in the residence. In contrast, today, 633 students call Currier home, paying $6,339 per year.

Despite all the changes, a few things have remained constant over the years.

Adam Eikamp of Eikamp Arts in Dubuque, who, along with wife Dawn, created the historical exhibit found on Currier’s ground floor, was fascinated not only by the building itself but by the community it has consistently fostered for the past century.

“That unique atmosphere created by a floor full of strangers meeting each other for the first time has been replicated, year after year, for 100 years,” Eikamp said. “That’s pretty cool.”

In this sense, he said, Currier has remained unchanged over the years. It has served as a constant cultivator of companionship and culture.

“A building is just a building, structures made of steel and brick,” Eikamp said. ”The students who live there are what makes it what it is,”

Completed for $150,000 in 1914, its distinctive Georgian Revival style set it apart from the other buildings on campus, while its limestone accents simultaneously make it congruous with the architectural precedent set by the Pentacrest. 

That same precedent is responsible for 16 other buildings on campus nearing the century mark, with the average building age being 40 years. The age of these buildings makes for a classic feel on campus, steeped in history and tradition and highlighted by Currier.

This sense of pride in the university’s identity also serves as a springboard for its future, Lehnertz said.

“I think it’s very interesting that the celebration of our oldest residence hall’s 100th birthday falls on the same year that we are building our newest hall since 1968,” Lehnertz. “It’s a neat snapshot into our university.”


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