Glenda Swain Feb 5, 2014

Alumni Oppose Demolition Of Lincoln University’s Historic Buildings

Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall - Lincoln UniversityLincoln University alumni have joined forces to block  the demolition of the university’s historic buildings. The alumni formed the Lincoln University Heritage Initiative (LUHI) in 2013 when university president Dr. Robert R. Jennings first announced plans to demolish Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall, the oldest building on the campus based in Pennsylvania.

The LUHI has now learned of the university’s plan to demolish three additional historic buildings (Cresson Hall, Houston Hall and Bond House) in the midst of leveraging the Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone (KOEZ) designation that will benefit developers and businesses.

LUHI has garnered over 1000 signatures on its petition to have Dr. Jennings and the Board of Trustees to hear LUHI proposals to work with the university to save the buildings. At the time of this release, Kimberly Lloyd, Board of Trustees Chair, and Dr. Jennings have refused to meet with the group.

“This is a time-sensitive opportunity for a win/win proposition by linking the proposed Historic District designation to the many tax credits and abatements that prospective developers and businesses would ultimately benefit from in participation in the recently approved KOEZ designation that Lincoln has actively pursued over the past year,” said Carol Black, president, LUHI.

“There is absolutely no reason,” continued Black, ” that students, alumni and other stakeholders of the university should support this KOEZ and a development plan that starts with tearing down the very edifices and structures that speak to Lincoln’s unique and enduring status as an historic institution of higher learning in America.”

Robert Ingram, national Alumni Association of Lincoln University (AALU) and vice president, LUHI, added, “We are totally on board for STEM education and development and internship opportunities for Lincoln students, but not as a trade-off for our character and traditions that make us valued and unique.”

Black agreed. “The University should contribute greatly to the surrounding community and vice versa but not at the sacrifice of our very identity! It is time for the university to come to the table and explore options. There are always options.”

Last May, Dr. Jennings reported his intention to the Council of the Alumni Association of Lincoln University that he was going to demolish Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall and replace it with a new welcome center. Many alumni were in shock that Jennings, a graduate of Morehouse College with no prior connection to Lincoln University, would seek to raze one of the oldest buildings on Lincoln’s campus. Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall, built in 1865, was built during the Civil War when the university was originally known as Ashmun Institute. Shortly after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the university changed its name to honor the slain 16th President of the United States.

“LUHI is comprised of the best and brightest of Lincoln’s distinguished alumni,” explained Ingram. “LUHI members include renowned architects, urban planners, engineers, university administrators, historians, lawyers, doctors and persons of the ilk and character who recognize the travesty and gross negligence that would be committed if the university continued on a course to not do all that is reasonably possible to maintain and bring back into use all of its historic structures.”

“Our organization has uncovered a survey in the 1980’s by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission,” added Black, “that informed the university that 15 of the buildings on the campus are eligible for historic district designation on the National Register of Historic Places. A number of state legislators and government officials find LUHI’s goal of seeking national historic designation as worthy of support also for the economic boost in cultural tourism dollars and jobs for Chester County and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania overall.”

To learn more about LUHI and its fight to protect and preserve the University’s historical legacy, visit luheritage.org or contact Carol A. Black at 484-962-0615 or info@luheritage.org.

Ed. note: Bob Ingram is the publisher of UPTOWN Professional magazine