Yesterday our faculty got updated on plans to renovate Lincoln Hall, the nearly 100-year-old home to our department (and several others) and one of the busiest buildings on campus. We will have to move out in order for the work to be done, and it could make for an unsettled time. On the up side, we'll return to a state-of-the-art building, and it's hard to argue with that. The very room in which we held our faculty meeting offered up plenty of evidence of the need for renovation: the antiquated heating system blasting even though it wasn't cold out, a window a/c unit far too small for the room attempting to counter the heat with cold, chunks of tile flecking up off the floor at my feet. But perhaps the most surreal evidence of the need for renovation --surreal because it seemed so Lincoln-Hall-normal that initially I didn't notice it at all -- was the student desk/chair combo shoved into the window to prop it open. When desks and chairs need to be employed in this manner, it's time for a makeover.
Despite its largely dilapidated condition, I must confess that I really love Lincoln Hall. Not just my spacious office with its high ceilings and views of flowering trees in the spring, but the whole package: the text of the Gettysburg Address mounted on a wall in the marble foyer of the building, the ancient mail slots in our office doors that you have to tape shut so students don't snap them as they walk by, the images from Lincoln's life and quotations from famous speeches fixed to the exterior of the building. Here's one of those images, a representation of the Lincoln-Douglas debates:
How could a rhetorician not love this place?
It strikes me that Lincoln Hall is a lot like Lincoln himself: homely and worn down, yet noble. As Whitman famously said of Lincoln, "He has a face ... so awful ugly it becomes beautiful." I hope when Lincoln Hall gets its much-needed extreme makeover, something of that homeliness remains. It's comforting.