Text and photos by Nathan Morgan
THE DINING HALL and social building, as it was originally known, broke ground on Oct. 15, 1934, with a “dirt-breaking” ceremony at the site. According to the UT Junior College newspaper, The Volette, the first shovel of dirt was turned by a student named Jean Heidelberg, then president of the Home Economics Club. The building opened in January of the following year.
A countless number of students have crossed over the threshold to this building, and the passage of time is evident in the terrazzo flooring that covers the lobby. This space has served the UT Martin campus for some 83 years, and it has served it well.Later this year the Communications Building, as it is known today, will be razed to prepare the site for the Latimer Engineering and Science Building. Although the structure will be gone, after the dust settles, several things will remain.
The railings that once adorned the recessed flagstone porch and the distinctive circular gable window have been sent to the Paul Meek Library’s Corbitt Special Collections. The light fixtures that once illuminated the building’s facade are being saved with the hope of being repurposed at a later date. There are also hundreds of photos of the building and its occupants from throughout the decades, some of which you can see here.
But, arguably, the most lasting pieces that will remain are the memories. Memories of formal events; memories of waiting in line and meal tickets; memories of sitting in communications classes; memories of famous visitors; memories of the photo darkroom; memories of Instructional TV, WLJT and WUTM; and more recently memories of marriage engagements.
Although it will be gone, the dining hall/cafeteria/TV studio/Communications Building will never be forgotten.
A quote from the Oct. 22, 1934, issue of The Volette regarding the pending construction said it best, “It is intended thtat (sic) this building shall serve as the center of the social life of the college. While the Junior College is young, it has already developed a distinct spirit which has grown along with the architecture of its buildings.” And that spirit continues to this day.
To see more photos from UT Martin’s collection, visit utm.edu/campusscene. “From the Archives” is a feature highlighting unique and interesting items from the Alliene and Jimmie S. Corbitt Special Collections. For more information or to make a donation, contact UT Martin Special Collections and Archives at 731-881-7094 or email@example.com.
Demolition of the Communications Building began on June 6, 2019. See photos from the project below: