Solomon and Etta P. Brachman Hall will be demolished during the summer of 2015 in order to make room for a parking garage in Worth Hills, said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Kathy Cavins-Tull.
The new parking garage location was announced in late October after objections from the surrounding neighborhood forced the university to move the structure farther away from Bellaire Drive.
The 2014-2015 academic year will be the final year in use for a residence hall that has always been something of an oddity.
Brachman Hall stands at quite a distance from the other first-year residence halls. The university’s layout placed most residence halls relatively close to one another, with Brachman being the notable exception.
Brachman’s remote location has been an annoyance for some of its residents. Paradoxically, however, this isolation helps foster a tight-knit community.
“Out of the time I’ve been at TCU so far, Brachman was definitely where I felt most at home,” said McCaryn Bourgeois, a junior music performance major and a resident assistant in Brachman last year.
The long walks required to go to the rest of campus often force residents to spend more time together. Many of the students who live in Brachman said they believe their hall builds community in a way other residence halls cannot.
“Everyone really made an effort to get to know everyone else,” junior communication studies major and former Brachman resident Tyler Roberts said.
Roberts said he is still good friends with many of the people he met during his year in Brachman.
“It may be far from campus, but it doesn’t matter because you just want to hang with everyone in the dorm anyways,” he said.
That sense of community was even noted in a mid-1970s brochure, which touted the hall’s “family-like atmosphere where everyone-knows-everyone-else and it is easy to develop close personal relationships.”
Brachman’s isolation was intentional – it was meant to be unique.
The “Experimental” Residence Hall
In the waning days of July in 1969, the Executive Committee of the university’s Board of Trustees approved the construction of a new residence hall. By the fall of 1970, the “new hall” welcomed its first residents.
For more than a decade, the new hall on the far southwestern edge of campus was both residence hall and an experimental academic and social program.
In a 1983 university report, the program’s stated purpose was “to provide a residential community which integrates living and learning so that the total college experience becomes more meaningful and rewarding” than that of traditional residence halls.
With classrooms, a seminar room, faculty offices, a library, study rooms and dorm rooms all in one structure, this new hall held formal and informal academic courses alongside living quarters.
The program and its unique origins were more European than Texan. The set-up of the building was designed to keep learning and living, the academic and the social aspects of college, in one concentrated place. This type of structure was “commonplace” to the residential colleges of Europe at the time.
The hall was officially dedicated to Solomon and Etta P. Brachman in November 1971. Solomon Brachman was a prominent local businessman and university donor.
In 1973, the program was named the Brachman Centennial College, followed by another name change in 1977, when it became the Brachman Living/Learning Community.
Whatever the name on the building, the hall possessed distinctive qualities.
In 1971, it became the university’s first coed residence hall. It had an independent student-run news magazine, an organizational structure of committees and councils unlike any other hall.
The Brachman program was viewed as a strong suit, and was even used to attract prospective students, according to an annual report on the program from the mid-1970s.
The experimental program eventually ended in the early 1980s and Brachman continued on as a conventional residence hall.
But current and former Brachman residents agree that the community atmosphere remained.
The ‘Growth Spurt’
When the spring semester of 2015 ends and first-year residents head home, the unique history of the T-shaped building off of Pond Drive will draw to a close.
The “garage-mahal” that will take Brachman’s place is part of a massive wave of construction and future development planned in Worth Hills.
“We need the garage if we want to build out that area out in Worth Hills,” Cavins-Tull said.
Cavins-Tull said the administration wants to bring modern residence halls like those in the Campus Commons to Worth Hills.
Some worry that new residential and multipurpose facilities in Worth Hills would essentially split the campus in two. But Cavins-Tull and the administration said they view this development as essential in order to keep up with expanding class sizes and improved retention rates.
“We’re in a growth spurt for the university,” Cavins-Tull said. “We want to build places where our students want to live.”
Development suffered a setback after neighbors in the surrounding area rejected the initial placement of the parking garage, which would have placed the six-level structure about 42 feet from the edge of Bellaire Drive North.
According to Chancellor Victor Boschini, the new proposed placement, 180 feet from the street, is more interior to the campus and will not require further permission.
Cavins-Tull said the parking garage is necessary because most of the parking spaces in Worth Hills will be lost during planned renovations of the fraternity and sorority houses.
After the upcoming spring semester ends, Colby Hall will be closed for renovations. Brachman Hall and a third residence hall in Worth Hills currently under construction will be used to offset the loss of housing space.
“We’ll take Brachman down when we put Colby up,” Cavins-Tull said.
When that happens in the summer of 2015, junior speech pathology major and former Brachman resident Kaitlin Bednarz will have already graduated. Like many others, she said the growing need for parking is a huge issue on campus.
Yet, she also said she will miss the secluded halls of Brachman.
“It’s definitely sad to think that the building that I spent a whole year in while making a huge transition in my life is being replaced by a parking garage,” Bednarz said.
Bourgeouis also said she will be disappointed to see the end of Brachman Hall.
“I think we do need parking, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of tearing down an important community on campus,” she said.
Despite setbacks, the long-awaited parking garage is coming. And next fall, the Brachman experiment will enter its final year.