West House Advocates Fight Plan to Remove Building

West House – a 68-year-old one-story building behind Hanes Art Center in the Swain parking lot – started out as a campus residence, was the first home to UNC’s computer science department, later housed the Institute of Arts and Humanities and today is home to the Carolina Asia Center.

Later this year, however, it is scheduled to be torn down to make room for part of a $165 million campus arts common.

Advocates to save West House are speaking up to try to find a way to keep West House and make it part of the planned arts common.

“It’s just a little jewel, and plus it clearly could have some new uses in an arts common,” Jeffrey Beam, a science librarian at UNC, told The Daily Tar Heel. Beam has been seeking support from others on campus to find an alternative to razing the building. “I don’t want anyone to think I’m against the arts common. I’m way for it,” he added.

West House was built in 1935 by a textile magnate Kenneth S. Tanner ’11 for his son, Kenneth S. Tanner Jr. ’39, as an alternative to the younger Tanner living in a campus dorm. It has a slate roof, copper drains and gutters and pine paneling.

“West House is an unusual building, and it’s very charming,” agrees Paul Kapp, historic preservation manager for the campus, who told The News & Observer that he did a lot of research about the best way to develop the arts common. “But in looking at the other historic resources in the arts common precinct, we figured this would be the one we would have to sacrifice.”

Planners considered removing Smith Building and Swain Hall for the project, but the final plan preserves those two while doing away with West House, the adjacent Evergreen House and Abernethy Hall.

Steven Levine, who came to Carolina in fall 2002 and directs the Carolina Asia Center, said he knows many people would like to see West House saved after his program moves to a new global education center. “I know many people who were here for programs when the Institute for Arts and Humanities was here,” Levine toldThe News & Observer. “When I tell them it’s going to be destroyed, there’s immediate chagrin and surprise.”

A meeting of West House supporters is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the lobby of Coker Hall.

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