Historic Quadrangle Renovation Brings New Life to Center of UTHSC Memphis Campus

Category: Features

By Peggy Reisser

After the University of Tennessee Health Science Center held its in-person commencement in May 2021, something happened on the Memphis campus that had not happened in decades—students gathered in the Historic Quadrangle in the center of the campus to take graduation photos.

planters filled with flowers line both sides of a pedestrian walkway on UTHSC's quadrangle

Having those smiling students back in the center of campus, where the university began more than 100 years ago, was the culmination of a vision that was more than a dozen years in the making. The newly renovated UTHSC Historic Quadrangle, which was completed in early 2021, stands on the vision and perseverance of UTHSC’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operations Officer Ken Brown.

Brown recalls the days he would walk legislators, local officials, the media and anyone interested through the unused and decrepit Mooney Library Building, built in 1928, as well as the adjacent buildings that comprise the quadrangle, all of which needed repairs and updating.

Persistence paid off in the form of $70 million in state funds to renovate the quadrangle and four of the buildings that comprise it. A little more than three years after the March 9, 2018, notice to proceed with the construction, UTHSC has a restored Historic Quadrangle that includes a new administration building in the Mooney Building, a new home for the College of Nursing in the Crowe Building and almost 70,000 square feet of state-of-the-art wet lab research space in the Nash and Nash Annex Buildings.

“The revitalization of the Historic Quadrangle is of major significance to the Health Science Center campus for many reasons. The most noteworthy being this is where it all started,” Brown said. “This is the original footprint of where the University of Tennessee College of Medicine started over 100 years ago, the footprint that now serves as the nucleus for a thriving academic medical center comprised of nationally ranked programs.”

The Mooney Library Building, named for C.P.J. Mooney, who was the editor of The Commercial Appeal and a member of the UT Board of Trustees in the 1920s, stands at the center of the quadrangle. Conceived as the focal point of the Memphis campus, but empty since 1985 when the library moved to the Lamar Alexander Building, the Mooney Building fronts on a courtyard that ties the structures together. It is now the headquarters for the UTHSC leadership, including the chancellor and the executive vice chancellor.

A bird's eye view of the quadrangle

The building has three floors with approximately 30 offices and a bottom-floor basement for storage. The ground floor has 20 offices. The second floor has a wood-paneled, formal gathering room with a fireplace for campus events, meetings and social functions. The top floor houses offices for the chancellor, the executive vice chancellor and the Campus Boardroom. Adjacent to the Mooney Building is the Crowe Building, which fronts on the courtyard and backs up along Union Avenue. It was completed in 1928. The 53,390-square-foot building, the first home for the College of Nursing in its history, includes 82 offices, a College of Nursing Board Conference Room, a student lounge, a reception area, a quiet room and other spaces.

With Flintco Construction as the contractor, the project was completed in three phases and ended up costing $68.5 million. Phase I entailed selective demolition to prepare for construction, as well as a hazardous material survey and abatement work. Phase II involved cleaning the building exteriors and installation of new windows. Phase III was the general building and site renovation. All the windows on the entire project were replaced with updated high-performance glazing and insulated thermal frames.

The buildings retain their original style. When it was originally built, architectural consultants Jones and Furbringer designed the quadrangle to resemble St. John’s College at the University of Oxford and Trinity College at Cambridge University, according to records from the Health Sciences Library at UTHSC. Great care was taken to retain and restore the original stairs and other historic woodwork, primarily in the Mooney Building.

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