Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Mary Mac Building demolition complete

building demolition

In just a few hours the Mary Mac Building was demolished on July 3. PHOTO BY: Richard Chapman.

It took two guys about three hours Tuesday to batter the Mary Mac Building into a pile of debris.

When they’d finished chewing up the building with their diesel-powered excavator, the three-story structure that stood at 2190 S. High St. for 53 years was gone.

Gone were the alcoves and offices that housed University Advancement (UA) for more than three decades. And gone was the temperamental brick building whose air conditioning often failed and whose musty odor — dubbed the “essence of Mary Mac” — was so persistent that some office workers complained they took it home with them on their clothes.

“I’m not heartbroken,” says Justin Shaw, a gifts and records coordinator who worked in Mary Mac since 2005. “This is a good day for University Advancement.”

In mid-June, UA relocated the bulk of its staff to rented quarters at Broadway Station, 990 S. Broadway, Suite 210. The new quarters are home to about 35 people, including advancement services and gift processing; research and records; gift planning; annual fund; and alumni relations.

The offices have a phone and data link to campus by a wireless system with one antenna at the site and another atop Centennial Halls. The link is the University’s first point-to-point wireless connection and is a less-expensive alternative to leasing phone and data circuits.

“They’re nice corporate offices,” says Vice Chancellor Ed Harris, who occupies second-floor space with a small staff in the Leo Block Alumni Center. “The staff now has sufficient space to be even more productive, and to build a spirit of teamwork and collegiality.”

Shaw agrees.

“It’s a much better working environment,” he says, recalling a colleague in Mary Mac whose office near the bathroom forced him to listen the paper towel dispenser all day.

Records indicate that DU trustees bought the Mary Mac Building in late 1964 for about $127,500. The building had operated as the 16-unit Mary Mac Apartments and was built by J.O. McElvain in 1954. McElvain sold the building in 1956 to J.D. and Rose Gerst, who subsequently sold it to DU.

Records are unclear as to how the 10,935-square-foot building was used until 1969, when it housed the Office of Assistant Treasurer and Manager of Real Estate. Subsequently, the building was used as offices, at varying times housing the staffs of development, grants, alumni relations, DRI Industrial Economics and University Advancement.

But in the workday hours of July 3, Mary Mac was just another “easy” knock-down for excavator operator Ortega Gaudanceo of Colorado Excavating and Demolition, who says he has demolished hundreds of buildings over the years.

While a coworker trained a hose on the building to keep down the dust, Gaudanceo pummeled the building with the steel jaws of the huge crawler excavator. The giant steel teeth took huge bites of the building, ripping off mouthfuls of wood and brick like a hungry animal. Walls, doors, memo boards where staff announcements once hung, light switches, vertical blinds — all were ripped, crushed and gnawed under a cobalt sky.

A few people watched the demolition, including construction workers nearby who were busy erecting Nagel Hall, a new residence hall slated to open in July 2008.

Among those who witnessed Mary Mac’s final hours was Scott Lumpkin, a UA veteran since 1983 who described the “humble” building as a “touch point” for DU’s advancement.

“In spite of its many flaws, it was a pivotal part of the transformation of the University that’s occurred for the last 15 years,” he said.

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