Remarks at Dedication of Third Barracks
11 November 2008
Distinguished guests, faculty and staff, ladies and gentlemen of the Corps of Cadets, and friends of the Institute. Today marks an event the likes of which has happened only twice before in the long history of the Virginia Military Institute. Today we formally dedicate the Third Barracks and the new Lejeune Hall contained within its walls. This is a very special moment in the life of our Institute. While still under construction, we expect the 3rd Barracks facility to be completely finished in the March 2009 time frame…with renovations of OLD and NEW Barracks continuing over 18 months into 2010.
The list of individuals who have made this day possible and who should be acknowledged publicly is long, as befits a project of such magnitude and importance. Of necessity, in our expression of thanks to individuals who have been involved in this work, some will not be recognized. But, be assured that our gratitude extends to everyone who has played a part in planning, financing, and constructing this project.
In the critical area of securing funding for this renovation and expansion project, which amounts to approximately $67 million, special thanks must be given to Governors Warner and Kaine who recognized our needs and supported our requests from the State’s General Fund and for bond financing. One tireless soldier in this campaign was Senator Thomas K. Norment, Jr., VMI ’68, who with other members of the Virginia Senate Finance Education Subcommittee have stood with us since the earliest days of the project in 2003. This morning, Senator Hanger is present and he has always supported our initiatives…as well as our own Delegate Ben Cline. Senator Northam, Delegates Lingamfelter, and Janis, and other VMI faithful graduates have been most helpful. And I also want to express our warmest thanks to members of the House Appropriations Committee for their firm support, to our Government Relations Team headed by BG Bob Green and Major Kim Parker, and to the many members of our Board of Visitors…past and present…who made the case and “shepherded” this project thru the halls of government…and to the VMI Construction Team, including LTC Dale Brown, Director of Construction; LTC Keith Jarvis, Deputy Director of Construction and Project Manager; David Tillar, Project Manager; and Will Reinholtz, Project Inspector. Warmest thanks also to the two firms that undertook this project to a successful conclusion: First, the architectural firm of Clark-Nexsen Architecture and Engineering of Norfolk, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina, and to its President Chris Stone and his team…, and second, to Nielsen Builders, Inc., of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and its President Tony Billers, and Andy Yowell, Project Manager, and his team. These men and women have labored valiantly for over three years to bring us to this day.
As we prepare to dedicate this magnificent addition to the VMI Barracks, we are mindful that it is not only an extension of the “physical structures” that we call Old and New Barracks, but that it is also an extension of the bold dream of our Founders. When the Institute was founded 169 years ago, on a snowy day on 11 November 1839, twenty-eight new cadets and two faculty members (Smith and J. T. L. Preston) moved into the Lexington Arsenal building, constructed in 1816 and located where the old courtyard is now found. There, the cadets relieved state militia soldiers who served as the Arsenal guard. The building they occupied was adequate for the storage of muskets and pistols, but completely inadequate as a home for cadets and a college. Thus, even as the cadets were moving into their new barracks, an additional story was being constructed on the Arsenal building to accommodate its new purpose.
Despite additions and improvements to the Arsenal building, it continued to be inadequate as the home of what Smith called “a school for scientific education.” Even worse, the old building leaked and flooded whenever it rained. Something new was needed, and General Smith and the Board of Visitors aimed high with their plans. Working with New York architect Alexander Jackson Davis, they oversaw the construction of an entirely new, modern, and architecturally fashionable barracks. This brick and stucco building, which still exists along the south or “Washington Arch” face of the Barracks, provided cadet rooms, living quarters for professors, classrooms, a small library, and rooms for debating societies. It was (to be) in the latest style, known as Gothic Revival, which created an environment that reinforced the military nature of the school. From that moment on, all additions to the Barracks and to the VMI Post would continue in this nineteenth century architectural style.
This barracks was dedicated in 1851 and served the Institute well until around 1859, when the popularity of the Institute and fear of approaching war led to rising enrollment and the need for an expansion. The result was an extension along the east side of the present Old Barracks to accommodate about 100 additional cadets, followed by a short extension along the west side. It is this building that was fired upon and burned by Union troops under General David Hunter in June of 1864, in retaliation for the Corps’ role in the Battle of New Market and the Institute’s role in producing officers for the armies of the Confederacy. Let me “deviate”, for a moment, and inform you that this spring, 2009, former Governor DuPont (of Delaware) will visit the Institute for the unveiling of a plaque (in JM Hall) in his great-grandfather’s honor. For you see, Captain DuPont, against his will, fired on the Institute as a Union Battery Commander; later as a U.S. Senator he provided the resources thru the United States Congress towards the rebuild of the Institute…which, his Battery destroyed.
Thus, after the Civil War, the Barracks was rebuilt and the west side of Old Barracks was extended to include Jackson Arch and a hall named for former VMI professor and Confederate General “Stonewall Jackson.” This was the original “Jackson Memorial Hall.” The Barracks now formed the letter “U” and a new three-story building – called Smith Hall – was constructed at the turn of the century in the open north side. Just beyond it, where New Barracks is now located, was another building, which served as the library, a museum, and offices. Old Smith Hall was demolished a few years later and the quadrangle that we know today surrounding the Old Courtyard was created. Old Barracks now matched Alexander Jackson Davis and Francis Smith’s original long-term plan for the Institute.
This is how the Barracks remained until the late 1930s, when increasing enrollment led to plans for an addition. World War II intervened, however, and construction did not physically begin until after the war, with completion of the New Barracks addition in 1949. Two years later, the main arch was named Marshall Arch. Gone was the old library, but VMI had built a new one – Preston Library – in 1939 – along Letcher “Academic Row.” The Barracks – now consisting of Old and New Barracks – followed closely the Davis design of the original Barracks. And they stood where the Arsenal, Smith Hall, the Old Library, and original JM Hall once stood. Perhaps this explains the “lore” associated with ghosts from the past.
In 1966, the home known as the Commandant’s Quarters was “taken down” to make room for a new cadet activities building, known as Lejeune Hall. This building is familiar to many of you gathered here today because it served you well until it, in turn, was taken down to make room for this, the Third Barracks. I add it also was not economically feasible to repair.
A few words about 3rd Barracks, which you will tour shortly. It contains 122 cadet rooms, capable of housing 548 cadets on six floors (if required) and if maximum capacity was fulfilled. Our plan places all cadets on 4 stoops above ground and utilizes the concourse for Cadet Life activities and club sports storage. The basement area includes a new trunk room and mud room in support of rat challenge, ROTC, and other field leadership activities. Lejeune Hall, encompassing two floors in the 3rd Barracks west end, contains a modern PX and Nobles Book Store, which will see completion in the January timeframe. A sentinel box, (to be built), a few historic quotes, and archway plaques recognizing our Vietnam and Gulf War VMI graduates who gave their lives will complete the aesthetics.
Some facts of interest as regards 3rd Barracks:
• There are 790 tons of reinforcing steel…and 166,000 concrete blocks
• 57 miles of power cable and 62 miles of communication and data cable
• Lejeune Hall will include a coffee shop, pizza oven; grill, Quiznos and an enlarged Nobles Bookstore in the basement.
• The stoop railings have a wire mesh to meet current safety code…but have spacing wide enough to fit the hay straps to accommodate Monday morning hay “airing” requirements.
• All cadet rooms are heated with a fan coil unit and two pipe system…meaning no more radiators to “strain” Rats over…
• There is no air conditioning; however, space has been allotted for this equipment if desired in the future by a more accommodating Superintendent.
• Each cadet room has their own sink and vanity as in Old and New Barracks.
Cadets belongings will be moved to 3rd Barracks rooms over this Christmas (2008) with cadets occupying these new rooms upon returning from furlough. We will then commence the modernization and repair of Old and New Barracks with a new heating system, wiring to meet code requirements, environmental abatement of the flooring, new armory and new Commandant’s Offices on two floors, and other touches…completing this work in 2010. Cadets will then be spread across all 3 Barracks, living by class “autonomy” on 1st thru 4th stoops, with considerable less crowding…, and new furniture (then) will be ordered for all rooms.
Within these new walls, a spartan environment has been rigorously maintained in keeping with the Founders’ ideas of the benefit to young students of “plain living.” Moreover, by keeping these various extensions and additions connected one to the other, the Barracks has been maintained as the “heart” of VMI, the center of life of the cadet…and a “chemistry lab” of leadership, where the common experience of cadet life takes place…and friends are established for a lifetime.
I am certain that our Founders, if they were here today, would be astonished by what they would see in these magnificent buildings, as well as in all the fine buildings around the Post. A modern, yet spartan barracks, befitting of a Corps of 1500 cadets…young men and women who have proudly and courageously chosen a harder road in their life’s higher education. And I also know that the Founders would be highly pleased and encouraged that, on this day, Founders Day, their bold dream for the Virginia Military Institute continues to unfold and develop. Today is a milestone along that path to a “greater” VMI.
At this time, I ask Mr. Tom Slater, President of the VMI Board of Visitors, and Mr. Ben Kimsey, President of the First Class to unveil the cornerstone officially dedicating the Institute’s 3rd Barracks.
And, at this time, Colonel Tom Trumps, Commandant of Cadets, will direct the VMI Guard Team to post the guard sentinels.
(Posting of the Guard Sentinels)
I now invite all to proceed thru the 3rd Barracks Arch and tour this latest addition to VMI. At 1130 hours in Cameron Hall, we will continue with Founders Day activities honoring two of our outstanding graduates. Thank you all for attending this morning.