Murphree Area

Murphree Area
General information
Type Housing
Location Main campus, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States
Coordinates 29°39′4″N 82°20′45″W / 29.65111°N 82.34583°W / 29.65111; -82.34583Coordinates: 29°39′4″N 82°20′45″W / 29.65111°N 82.34583°W / 29.65111; -82.34583
Groundbreaking 1905
Completed 1939

Murphree Area is an historic residence hall complex on the northern edge of the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida. The complex is adjacent to University Avenue, one of the major public roads that serve the university and define its boundaries. It was the university's first residence area and the last one to become co-ed. The Murphree Area complex is named for Albert A. Murphree, the second president of the university, who served from 1909 to 1927. It consists of the following five residence buildings, all built between 1905 and 1939:

Early history (19061939)

Buckman Hall and Thomas Hall were the first two university buildings to be built, and were dedicated on September 27, 1906. Buckman Hall was named for Henry Holland Buckman, the member of the Florida Legislature who wrote the Buckman Act, which created the modern University of Florida in 1905. Thomas Hall was named for Gainesville mayor William Reuben Thomas who supported the donation of 517 acres (2.09 km2) of land and $40,000 from Gainesville to the state so that the Florida Legislature would build the university in Gainesville rather than in Lake City.

The buildings are constructed of brick, have three and a half floors, and are late Gothic Revival-Tudorbethan in style. The buildings were designed by architect William Augustus Edwards of the firm of Edwards and Walters, then based in Columbia, South Carolina, and were built by Jacksonville-based contractor W.T. Hadlow at a cost of $75,250 per building.

Both buildings were designed for student housing but have served many uses, and in their early history were used to house the entire university. Buckman Hall contained a six-bed infirmary, gymnasium, and an apartment for a professor (the "officer-in-charge"). Thomas Hall contained administration offices in the north section, classrooms, laboratories, an auditorium, a library, a dining room, and a kitchen in the center sections, and an agricultural laboratory in the south section. Both buildings had hardwood floors and potbellied stoves (for which the university provided wood for students to burn). In 1906, students paid $2.50 in rent to live in the halls.

The collections of the Florida Museum of Natural History were for a time displayed at Thomas Hall.

In 1911, final plans were made for the construction of four additional buildings: an agriculture building (Floyd Hall), the University Commons Building (Cafeteria), the language hall (Anderson Hall), and the College of Education building (Peabody Hall). When these facilities were completed in fall 1913 (after a delay in funding for the Language Hall and Education Building), parts of Thomas Hall were left vacant, and Thomas Hall was renovated for use as a residence hall, opening in 1914.

Later history (19402000)

In 1940, Thomas Hall was linked to Fletcher and Sledd Halls, forming a "UF" shape that can be seen from the air. From 1940 to 1949, the interiors of Buckman and Thomas Halls were renovated, and the wood structures were replaced by steel and concrete, at a cost estimated to be between $37,000 and $54,000.

In 1974, Thomas Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places, with the register reading

1905–1906, Edwards and Walters, architects. Brick, 3½ stories, H-shaped, hipped and pitched roof sections; crenulated parapet interrupted by stepped gables placed over a division, each with its own entrance and bay window; regular fenestration, stone quoins, elaborate arched large stone scroll brackets; connected to another building at E end of S wing. Late Gothic Revival. One of first 2 buildings on University of Florida campus.

A press release issued when Thomas Hall was added to register told the story of the campus legend of "Old Steve," the ghost who haunts Murphree Area, the last all-male residence area (it was designated co-ed in 1972). According to the legend, "Old Steve" was the original head cook on campus who worked in the kitchen in the center of Thomas Hall, beneath the classrooms and library. The legend states that Old Steve disrupted the campus through his shouting and cursing at his kitchen crew, the banging of pots and pans, the hissing of steam, and the loud crackling of fire and pans as lunch was preparedthe same sounds heard when the steam heating system in the Murphree Area halls is turned on every fall.

Present day (2001present)

Increased electrical demands of students put heavy burdens on Thomas Hall, draining power and causing circuit overloads and thrown breakers, with four to six residents sharing a 15-amp service. In 2000, a $2.5 million four-year electrical upgrade project began with the aim of providing at least one 20-amp circuit per student. The project required total rewiring of the hallsfrom transformers to each outlet and switchand the installation of a new 23,000-volt primary distribution switch.

In 2002, a $500,000 project to landscape the university’s historic area (the Murphree Area courtyard and University Avenue area) began when Florida alumni Herb and Catherine Yardley of Fort Lauderdale gave $250,000 to be matched by the university. Landscape architecture students at the university assisted in the design, which includes proposed sidewalks, landscaping plants and design, walls, and seating areas.

Thomas Hall is co-ed by section and occupied by 170 residents.

See also


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