The original Chidley Hall as we know it has been torn down.
Construction workers began demolishing the campus icon last Tuesday as part of N.C. Central University’s 2017 Campus Master Plan schedule.
Workers began early in the day, preparing to tear down the old men’s residence hall with a bulldozer.
By three in the afternoon, said bulldozer was clawing away at the neo-Georgian building facing East Lawson Street as a worker sprayed the demolition with a hose. With every swipe at the building, the machine moved more and more of Chidley to a pile of rubble in a corner of the construction site. Black barriers surrounded the site with warning signs as mud made of building shrapnel and water flowed down the sidewalks in front of the building.
Don’t let the mess fool you, though—what was inside was much worse. $4.2 million in repairs to a leaky and aging steam heating system spawned a toxic black mold problem in 2003. Removing the mold would have likely caused workers to be exposed to asbestos, which led to the 52-year-old building closing that same year.
Originally built in 1951, Howard J. Chidley Residence Hall was named in honor of the minister at First Congregational Church in Winchester, Massachusetts, an early financial supporter of the university who served on the NCCU Board of Trustees from 1916 to 1921.
The main building housed roughly 300 male students each semester until the annex was added to the structure in 1965. From thereon, total occupancy was increased to 618.
As late as April 2017, the university had its sights set on renovating and reopening the residence hall, but after conservative estimates placed the cost of fixing the original structure at $19 million, administration decided to focus on improving smaller-scale campus issues first.
Chidley North Residence Hall, which opened in 2011, somewhat mitigated the housing problem its namesake’s closing cause, housing 517 residents. That housing project, fully-furnished with laundry facilities, kitchens and study rooms, and lounges on each of its four floors, cost $30 million.
The Division of Administration and Finance sent out an email to the campus community alerting them of the beginning of the demolition process that same day. According to the DAF, full demolition will continue until April 25.
The George Street Apartments near Alfonso Elder Student Union were the first of NCCU’s older residence halls to be torn down earlier this semester along with the former Office of Community Engagement and Women’s Center buildings. The apartment-style accommodations that housed 26 upperclassmen was originally opened in 1956.
According to the 2017 Campus Master Plan buildout, multiple new residence halls are planned to be built around campus to fill the void that Chidley leaves, including twin residence halls between Farrison-Newton Communications Building and the Latham Parking Deck, a larger George Street residence hall, and new Chidley Apartments in the same general area of the original building. Total cost for all four buildings is presently unknown.
Story by Kaylee Sciacca with contributions by Aaliyah Bowden. Video by Siegee Dowah.