Monday, March 11, 2013

Juniper Hall Memories

Juniper Hall welcomed 200 of the College of Southern Utah's 1,256 students when it opened in 1965. In the five decades since, nearly 15,000 students have called it home.

It was the longest standing of the University's housing facilities, but after a failed heating system rendered in uninhabitable half way through the Fall 2011 semester, Juniper Hall became just a shell of the home it once was. And though it was ushered out due to facility insufficiencies and failures, Juniper Hall successfully kept Thunderbird students safe and warm for 46 years. So while its cinderblock walls and contemporary modernist architecture became a bit worse for the wear, the merits of this outdated building warrant reflection as its doors forever closed.

Just a few years after the college had gained independence from its original standing as a branch of Utah State University, CSU was thriving, with increased academic offerings, student enrollment and more campus construction projects than ever before.

Nearly 800—63 percent—of CSU's student body were freshman when the college opened its 1965 fall quarter, and as the school drew students from further across southern Utah, more and more needed a place to live while attending college. Juniper's communal living design fast established the "boys dormitory," as it was most often referenced in the early years, as the most exciting and fun of the dorms on campus.

This reputation remained the same over the years, and as students packed their belongings in preparation for Juniper's sudden closure in the middle of the fall 2011 semester, many expressed dismay that the makeshift families they formed as residents of Juniper's A, B or C wings would now be disbanded.

Even in its early years, many wondered why a student would intentionally choose to share a bathroom with 16 other people, but the sense of community that comes with close quarters trumped convenience, and Juniper residents fondly recall countless friendships formed and memories made. From weekly cleaning inspections and RA-sponsored movie nights to sneakily roasting marshmallows in the downstairs gas fireplace and so often intentionally setting off the fire alarms that, for a time, the alarm system was disconnected, Juniper’s residents proved that the more hands in the pot, the more interesting the soup.

As Gary Turek (’75 and Juniper B-hall resident) put it, "I am sure SUU will replace Juniper with another amazing facility just as they did with Manzanita Court. But like many, Juniper was my first ‘home away from home,’ and I feel a certain nostalgic sadness that it is gone.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, and while we look forward to the future, we hold on to the memories of Juniper’s five decades as “home.”

View pictures from the Juniper Hall demolition on the SUU Alumni Association's flickr photostream