Wirtz House fate unsettled

By Elizabeth M. Behland

The fate of Wirtz House, located in the Martin Luther King Memorial Commons, has “not yet been decided,” said Eddie Williams, vice president for finance and planning.

The renovations of the commons, scheduled to begin in the summer of 1990, originally included the removal of the house to provide space for a public free speech area, new landscaping and a statue of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

The building currently houses the University Resources for Women, the Women’s Studies Program and the Foreign Studies Office.

Williams said, “The original thrust of the project’s concerns dealt with providing adequate space” for a public speech area.

“Any plans that suggest the removal of the house must also have a component for acceptable alternate space for those in the house,” he said.

Since the original plan was released “a different set of arguments” have arisen, Williams said. There seems to be some concern around the campus about the symbolic nature and history of the house, he said.

The commons’ renovation committee will hold open meetings in early February in order to discuss possible reasons to save the house, Williams said.

“When we first started (planning the commons’ renovations) the committee was looking for any reason to save the house,” he said.

Williams said he contacted the Wirtz family that originally owned the house. He said the family approved the removal of the house, but requested a few of the house’s original furnishings.

“We don’t want to overlook any thinking or feelings associated with the house,” Williams said.

The members of the finance and planning office “tried to get the most representive (commons’ renovations) committee possible to get as much input as we can” concerning the proposed Wirtz House removal, Williams said. The committee will be attempting to get “feedback” about any symbolism or aesthetic value people might find with the house, he said.

James Norris, dean of liberal arts and sciences college, said the Women’s Studies Program that is currently located in the house will move this semester. However, Norris said the relocation is not in response to the possible removal of the house. The program will be moving “regardless” of what happens to the house.

“Wirtz House is very small and the Women’s Studies Program has only one room” to conduct their services, he said.

The program’s director requested more office space if it were to become available, Norris said. The women’s resources office “very generously allowed us to use one room in the house” until additional space became available, he said.

Norris said space became available this year in Reavis Hall and the program will be moving there after the office is painted and new carpeting is installed.