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Old Main and first 50 years of Senior Walk at UA reopen after renovation

In 2013 UA observed an accelerated level of weakening and crumbling to the first 50 years of Senior Walk, which was started in 1905.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Old Main and the first 50 years of Senior Walk have reopened after months of renovations to the plaza and original walk.

In 2013 the University of Arkansas (UA) Facilities Management Department observed an accelerated level of weakening and crumbling to the first 50 years of Senior Walk.

As a result, the names were at risk of fading becoming illegible and posed safety and accessibility issues, and a decision was made to replace the Senior Walk and Old Main plaza, in an effort to preserve the historic areas.

The replacement of the Senior Walk was funded in part by an Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council grant awarded in 2019.

According to an article written by UA, the original Senior Walk was replaced with high-grade monumental concrete and reinforced with a steel bar. The original names were sandblasted to look the same as when they were originally written. Bronze numbers were added for all previous years to match the current numbers used for Senior Walk. 

"This was an important project that required a thoughtful approach," said Mike Johnson, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management. "It was essential for us to honor the history of Senior Walk and Old Main while also creating a safe environment. We're really happy with the result and believe the campus will be too."

Senior Walk was started when students began the tradition of adding names to the sidewalk, beginning with the class of 1905. However, the class of 1904 was impressed with the unique idea of etching their names into the sidewalk and asked if they could add their class. That class became the first hand-lettered block in the walk.

Through 1924, the classes were hand-drawn into the wet concrete each year by one of the class members. In 1925, the university took over installation, using raised-letter stamps to impress the names in the concrete. In 1930, names from the graduating classes from 1876-1903 were added to the plaza in front of Old Main. In the 1980s, the task of mechanically imprinting names into wet cement took so long that workers in Facilities Management created a new machine called the Sand Hog, which sandblasts new names into the hardened sidewalk.

To help preserve the history of the Senior Walk, sections of the original names were kept and will hang in a future exhibit in Old Main which will highlight the history of Senior Walk. 

“It’s one of our most iconic things, if it is the most iconic thing on our campus other than Old Main. Having Senior walk completed to a way that it’s going to last even longer than it already has and we are going to be able to preserve that piece of history, those original pieces, it’s obviously a really good feeling," John Thomas said.

The plaza of Old Main, facing Arkansas Avenue, was also facing deterioration and safety concerns as the bricks shifted and became uneven. The UA article also says that Sandstone was chosen to replace the former brick plaza, which was designed to match the steps of Old Main. The Spoofer's Stone, which incurred some damage during construction, has been repaired and remains in its long-time location. 

Additional plans to add historical markers along the site of the original Senior Walk are ongoing. Old Main lawn, including Senior Walk, was officially added to the UA Campus Historic District as a historic landscape in 2009.

An official dedication ceremony will be scheduled later as part of the sesquicentennial celebration.

Watch: UA Senior Walk Getting A Face Lift 

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