Midway through the Advent Semester of 2013, Sewanee broke ground on the construction of eight townhouses in two locations that absorbed an $8 million budget. This major architectural and logistical undertaking began in 2012 with a phase of discussions and concept developments. The architectural design emerged towards the end of 2013 as Sewanee was eager to begin construction on the new buildings, expecting that they would be completed in time for the beginning of Fall 2014. As Provost John Swallow said, it is “a time for infrastructural renewal,” as the University worked diligently throughout the summer to build the new houses and renovate many older facilities on campus. Swallow said, “I like to think of Sewanee as a series of neighborhoods and as Sewanee makes improvements to the campus, we need to make sure that we pay attention to connectivity.”
In other words, the University has paid specific attention to detail when designing new buildings and renovating old buildings to ensure that they uniformly match the general architectural style of the buildings within the vicinity. However, connectivity not only relates to the physical attraction of buildings, but to how they are made accessible to the student body. In designing and constructing the two townhouses the University was determined to create living spaces that are handicap accessible. The two locations have several features that aid the visual and hearing impaired and those with other disabilities. Some include larger bathrooms to accommodate wheelchairs, wider doorways, sophisticated doorbells, and a perfect location for easy access to central campus. In addition, built alongside the Georgia Avenue townhouse is a new lodge that serves as a rentable meeting place for organizations on campus to host social events and gatherings.
The townhouses, located on Georgia Ave (next to Stirling’s Coffee House) and Mississippi Ave, are designated theme houses that, Swallow says, “allow flexibility in how students can live together with shared interests.” Theme housing offers students a unique opportunity to reside in a living space with other students that have similar interests, goals, and aspirations. As Saunders Drukker (C’17) said of the Music House, “It’s a place where musicians get to live together and play together.” Similarly, Kaitlyn Roberts (C’16) says regarding the Sewanee Community Wellness House, “We wanted to create a community on campus that would support interconnectedness and promotes a balanced healthy lifestyle in a nonjudgmental environment.”
When applying to live in themed housing, students have the option to choose from a variety of formerly established theme houses as well as several new houses including the Business House, Craft House, Political Activism House, Farm House, Culture and Literature Community, and the SPOT House (Students Positively Organized Together). Members of the Sewanee community are encouraged to visit the various houses as Austin Ondrusek (C’17), member of the Music House, mentioned, “We want to make the house more accessible to the public so we have some big ideas and plans for upcoming events.” Theme housing at Sewanee serves an important function within the Sewanee community. “[They] help students transition from living in a dorm to living in an apartment, which they will most likely live in for part of their adult life,” said Swallow. The University happily welcomes the latest additions to the domain and looks forward to the new phase of changes and renewal that is yet to come.