PRINCETON, NJ — Due to the recent demolition of its Quad, members of Butler College are officially prohibited from complaining about their dorms for the 07-08 academic year. “If Princeton is the place for archways and ivy,” freshmen used to whine, “why would the university put us in a Trenton housing project?” Like an ugly stepsister kept locked in the basement, the Quad was an unpleasant surprise to students who had never strayed from their tour group.
Not Butler Quad
Princeton erected the Butler Quad during the height of the Cold War with secret help from East German architectural consultants. Official propaganda romanticized the dorm’s brick-over-reinforced-concrete construction as a “modern reinterpretation of the gothic look,” but dissenters described the dorms as “ugly” and “kind of scary.” Butler came to be known as “the Butt.”
“It didn’t have arches,” recalled one former resident. “I came to Princeton because it looked awesome in the brochure; when I saw Butler I felt betrayed. Even McDonalds has arches.” While dorms like Blair enjoyed the angelic music of accapella groups, birds refused to sing from the jagged walls of Butler; only the screeching of crows and the scratching of black squirrels were to be heard within that blighted dorm.
Butler Quad — not on the Orange Key tour
Inhabitants often bemoaned the absence of common rooms, public spaces, and basic amenities. The architect had deemed such frivolties wasteful; after all, what good is a common room if no one wants to visit you? Freshmen friendships were split up, and OA companions went months without seeing eachother. After a hellish stay in 1942 Hall for reunions, one alumnus was appalled by the lack of soap dishes in the showers. “President Tilghman,” he wrote in an angry email, “if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for Princeton, if you seek alumni support, come here to this dorm. President Tilghman, tear down this hall!”
Hammer time: the end of an era
Though some predicted the Quad would endure for hundreds of years (it appeared to be the only structure on campus intended to withstand nuclear attack), summer of 2007 saw it fall. Throngs of black and orange garbed celebrants danced on the roof tops and attacked the Butt with hammers, cracking off pieces to sell to nostalgic alumni on eBay. Students separated since orientation were reuinited at last.
But unification has been difficult at times. Though students up-campus are glad to see their friends again, the waves of refugees are competing for housing. “Butler frosh? In Cuyler?!” gasped a shocked upperclassman. “It’s way too good for those brats!”
Some Butlerites are having trouble adjusting to their new freedom, having adapted so completely to their dark, tiny dorms that they now shun sunlight and open spaces. “I like it in the Butt,” explained one such student; he is petitioning Housing to let him live in a Firestone carrel.
Still, the fall of the Butler Quad will be remembered as a turning point in Princeton’s history. The Butt was ugly, antisocial, illogical, unremarkable — the antithesis of all that is Princeton. Its destruction represents the triumph of reason over folly, compassion over cruelty, and light [brick] over dark [brick].