After years on the chopping block, one of LSU’s oldest and least loved dorms, Kirby Smith Hall, is set to close for good when the current semester ends in May and eventually be torn down.

“That building is definitely heading to demolition,” said Pete Trentacoste, executive director of Residential Life. “It’s not whether it will be demolished, it’s a matter of when.”

The university won’t need the 56-year-old residence hall after this school year if current enrollment projections hold true, though an unanticipated enrollment spike could lead the university to keep the place open a little longer, Trentacoste said.

To allow for the “retirement” of Kirby Smith, LSU is finishing up construction of two new residence halls, Camellia Hall and Azalea Hall, and both are scheduled to be ready for students by this fall. Both have about 400 beds apiece.

Those 800 beds are more than enough to offset the 550 that Kirby Smith offers, about 350 of which are currently in use, Trentacoste said.

Named after a Confederate general, the structure has long been considered an eyesore and its austere exterior does not mesh well architecturally with the buildings around it. Nevertheless, it occupies a small place in Louisiana history as the transition headquarters for not one, but two, Louisiana governors. The first one was incoming Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2007, and the second was current Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Kirby Smith Hall has closed and reopened before. For instance, it was in operation in fall 2019 and closed the following spring.

It first closed in 2006, but when housing demand grew on campus, it underwent a $1.7 million renovation and was reopened in 2011.

Then-LSU Chancellor Michael Martin offered an original sales pitch to would-be Kirby Smith residents, saying they get to enjoy an “historic international experience.”

“It’s a chance to live in the Soviet Union,” Martin quipped.

The building is named after Edmund Kirby Smith, a Confederate general who didn’t surrender until nearly two months after the rest of the Confederate army surrendered at Appomattox. After the war, Smith went on to serve as the chancellor of the University of Nashville and later as a professor of mathematics and botany at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn.

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Buildings and other locales on LSU campus named after Civil War figures has become an increasing source of controversy. In 2017, Raphael Semmes Road, named after a Confederate admiral was renamed; it ran past the university’s African American Cultural Center.

Last year, LSU took World War II general and former university president Troy Middleton's name off the main campus library because of a letter he wrote expressing opposition to desegregation on campus.

The university has not renamed Kirby Smith Hall in part because the building has been slated to be mothballed anyway.

“It would make it sort of moot,” Trentacoste said.

Sometime after it closes for good, Kirby Smith Hall will undergo a yearlong “abatement,” Trentacoste said, which will not only remove any asbestos from the building, but will also mean the scavenging of any equipment there that can be reused elsewhere on campus.

“Once we start this process, I’ve been assured it will be difficult to undo,” he said.

Once abated, then demolition will be scheduled. Trentacoste said Kirby Smith is too close to other buildings to be knocked over; it will have to be “imploded.”

“It will have to come straight down,” he said.

After a few months of cleanup, the site will be leveled and readied for future use, though Trentacoste said he’s not certain what that will be.

“It will not be just a hole in the ground,” he said.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.