North facade of the current Robinson A, behind construction fencing, January 7, 2019. Photo by author.

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series. To read Part 1, visit https://vault217.gmu.edu/?p=7922

George Mason University faculty, staff, and students noticed increased activity around Robinson A when the Fairfax Campus reopened after the Winter Break on January 7th. Mason’s second academic building, originally completed in 1975, will be levelled during the first half of January. According to the univerwsity’s time line the space occupied by Robinson A will be cleared out, new foundations for the new Robinson Hall will be laid and the utility installations will begin during the spring semester. Sometime later, Robinson B will meet the same fate.

Robinson A was originally part of a trio of simultaneous construction projects taking place on the Fairfax Campus between 1973 and 1975. Mason’s Fairfax Campus, characterized by some as resembling a “war zone”, was undergoing needed expansion necessitated by its promotion to an independent regional university and skyrocketing enrollment growth (more than doubling from 2,398 to 4,926 from 1970-1973).  University officials foresaw this during the late 1960s and began planning for the next three buildings once the 1970s began. The three included: the first stack tower of Fenwick Library (called Library II back then), a new academic classroom/lab/office building (known as Academic II and now Robinson A), and a student center (then called the University Union and now Student Union Building or “SUB” I).

Aerial photograph of George Mason University , Fairfax campus, 1974. Photo shows simultaneous construction work on Fenwick Library (at right), Academic II (bottom center), and University Union (at left). George Mason University Facilities Management records #R0017, Box 139. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Interestingly, construction on Library II and Academic II began on the same day, February 21, 1973, with a combined-project groundbreaking ceremony. A unique program was printed for the ceremony, which took place both inside the Finley Building and outdoors at a spot in between both future construction sites in the chilly February weather.

George Mason University President Lorin A. Thompson (at far right wearing hat and holding program in his hand) and members of George Mason University Administration and Board of Visitors survey the site where construction of Academic II (Robinson A) was to begin. George Mason University photograph collection, R0120, Box 3, Folder 1.Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

George Mason’s student newspaper, Broadside, was on hand to report on the ceremony. A staff photographer captured the priceless image of President Loren A. Thompson behind the wheel of a John Deere backhoe.

Article from Broadside newspaper, February 26, 1973. University and Student Publications, Broadside newspapers, Box 3. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Academic II A was completed in July of 1975. When opened that fall, the 100,000 square-foot building featured 28 classrooms, 14 labs, and 135 faculty offices. Project cost was $2.4 million. It was renamed for a university benefactor, Clarence Johnston Robinson, at its dedication on September 24th of that year.

North facade of Academic II (later named Robinson Hall) dated April 30, 1975. This was taken about 3 months before completion of construction. George Mason University Broadside photograph collection #R0135, Box 11, Page 13, Frame 6. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Flash forward 44 years to 2019, and it is time for the old Robinson Hall A wing to go. It and, sometime in the future, Robinson B will be replaced by a new sophisticated building and grounds in 2022. Demolition crews were at work in Robinson A over the Winter Break, removing nearly all of the interior parts of the building. The exterior of the building will be removed during the first half of the spring semester, and results will be noticeable by the time the  semester begins. This photo was taken from the vantage point of the front entrance to Student Union I.

Exterior demolition of southwest corner of Robinson A, January 9, 2018. Photo by author.

George Mason University Facilities has installed a webcam on the roof of Student Union Building I so that interested persons could monitor the Robinson Hall project on a daily basis. It can be viewed at this link:

http://webcampub.multivista.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=aPublicWebcam.embed&WebcamPublicEmbedUID=1A942071-E6C0-489A-90EB-0B0CC851D837&HLS=1

Still image from webcam installed on the roof of Student Union Building I, January 9,2019.

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