By Tiffany Lang
Demolition of Jacksonville State University’s Merrill Hall officially began Monday, July 29 at 10 a.m. following a brief ceremony where faculty, staff, alumni and students gathered in front of the nearly 50-year old facility to say goodbye.
The ceremony offered attendees a brief history of Merrill Hall, which was constructed in 1970, and offered a glimpse into the future of the new School of Business and Industry building, which is set to be completed by 2021.
JSU President Dr. John Beehler, who opened the ceremony, referred to the demolition as a bittersweet moment.
“While we are sad to lose this university landmark, it’s a relief to move forward from one of the most visible reminders of the March 2018 disaster,” said Beehler.
The “March 2018 disaster” Beehler referred to was an EF-3 tornado that damaged almost two-thirds of the facilities on campus, including Merrill Hall and the surrounding community, on March 19, 2018.
After the building sustained heavy damage, the School of Business and Industry moved into the old Kitty Stone Elementary School. The old school building was named the School of Business and Industry Complex.
SGA President Ulises Herrera, a marketing major who closed the ceremony, fondly remembered the facility as it was, saying he recalled the days when students “would walk through the atrium looking at the colorful tickers keeping up with the markets all around.”
Herrera said he can only imagine the connection that the alumni, students, faculty and staff feel toward Merrill Hall and that he believes these connections will always be cherished.
Merrill Hall was constructed in 1970 for $2 million and was named in honor of Rep. Hugh D. Merrill of Anniston, who was instrumental in helping change JSU from a teacher’s college to a state college.
The JSU Board of Trustees approved a plan on July 16 to build a new 108,151 square-foot facility for the School of Business and Industry. The facility is set to cost $50 million to construct.
After factoring in assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and later insurance settlements, JSU is only expected to foot $10 million for costs associated with the new School of Business and Industry facility.
Demolition is projected to be complete in just a few months and according to a statement on the JSU website, it is estimated that the new facility will open in January 2021, but an exact date has not been given yet.
**Photo courtesy of JSU**