UK could demolish 2 historical campus sites

By Kayla Pickrell

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Two historic properties on campus could be demolished to expand the UK College of Law.

The Mathews House and Garden, built in 1908 by Clarence Wentworth Mathews, the first dean for the College of Agriculture, stands at 660 S. Limestone.

“Our land-locked university must utilize our limited available space very carefully and strategically,” said Bob Wiseman, vice president of UK Facilities, in a statement. “In the new financial world UK operates within, we must shepherd our resources strategically and carefully.”

According to a letter sent to President Eli Capilouto from Linda Carroll, the Blue Grass Trust’s president, both houses contribute to a “walkable vibrant campus, supported by vibrant neighborhoods.”

The other historical house is the Ligon House, at 658 S. Limestone.

“I understand the need the College of Law has for a new facility, but I wonder if they were aware of the historical significance,” said John Rohrer, chairman of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Historic Preservation Commission and a graduate of the UK College of Law.

“It’s more or less a request for UK to slow down, look at alternatives and give it more thought,” he said.

The only hurdle UK has to jump to give the OK for the demolition is through federal funding.

If the houses are deemed eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Carroll said UK could not use federal funding to demolish the building.

“Discussions about law and other issues discussed in the letter are preliminary in nature. No final decisions have been made,” Wiseman released in a statement to the Kernel. He was unavailable for an interview.

“This is an appropriate process for the university to undertake as it looks at how best to utilize resources and maximize student success and the best use of campus land and space.”

In April 2012, Blue Grass Trust and UK invested in the research of Omar Blaik’s Anchor Institution Report that focused on creating a livelier and homely campus.

“Mr. Wiseman didn’t mention to me they were abandoning Omar Blaik’s report,” Carroll said.

“Our small nonprofit company donated $1,000 to hire Blaik.”

Carroll said the university originally supported Blue Grass Trust in the hiring.

UK has no date set for a demolition and still has to comply with regulations to proceed.

“The university is better than demolition,” Carroll said in the letter to Capilouto.