Shoreland residents revel in dorm’s rough edges as closing nears

If you ask Resident Master Lawrence Rothfield, the Shoreland has been falling apart since the University converted it into a dormitory 30 years ago.

By Rachel Cromidas

[img id=”76884″ align=”alignleft”] If you ask Resident Master Lawrence Rothfield, the Shoreland has been falling apart since the University converted it into a dormitory 30 years ago. The hallway and dorm room walls are plastered with student murals, one ballroom has a collapsed ceiling, and the elevators have been known to stop running when students are late for class.

“It looks like the set of A Nightmare Before Christmas,” Rothfield said of the ballroom.

Shoreland Hall, located on South Shore Drive, was built in 1926 as a luxury hotel but is now serving out its last year as a University dorm. In 2004, the University sold the property to Kenard Corporation for $6 million. This year, Antheus Capital, parent company of the real estate company Mac Property Management in Hyde Park, bought the building for $16 million.

Although MAC has not yet announced its plans for the Shoreland, company spokesperson Peter Cassel said earlier this month that MAC intends to maintain the building as an attractive housing option for University students.

But before the Shoreland can reopen its doors, the building will need to undergo significant renovation. According to some students, simply traveling from dorm to class has grown increasingly challenging for Shoreland residents in recent years.

“Last year, a few people in my house [Michelson] got stuck once between the sixth and the seventh floors [in the elevators],” said second-year Eliza Behlen, who now lives off campus.

“I lived on the sixth floor so I could hear them pounding on the doors,” she said.

Rothfield said that over the years, the University has neglected to maintain the aging dorm.

“The University kept [the Shoreland] going and never really bit the bullet and invested the amount of money it would take to fix it,” he said.

Although the University has been unable to maintain upkeep at the Shoreland, that hasn’t stopped residents from revitalizing the building in their own quirky ways.

“Every year, my house has a theme, and then they paint the walls,” said second-year Karl Shum, who lives in Filbey House.

“I think in previous years if you painted the walls, you’d have to repaint them white or pay a fine,” he said, explaining that those rules have loosened since the University sold the Shoreland.

“People put signs that say ‘please don’t paint over my mural,’ so a lot of stuff has been preserved,” he added.

Behlen fondly remembers decorating her room last year.

“We had a series of painting parties. We’d have people over, get them drunk, and then let them do whatever they wanted on our walls. Some of it was nice. Some of it looked like Jackson Pollock,” she said.

Despite the Shoreland’s rough edges, Rothfield thinks it’s an ideal place for students.

“Shoreland has the largest rooms of probably any dorm in the country, billion-dollar views, a ballroom that holds up to 300 people and has allowed us to bring in Second City, the Dodos, and other rock bands,” he said. “When you live in a place that is both far away from campus and has much easier access to downtown…I think it helps our students develop a more self-reliant attitude.”

First-year Samira Patel agreed.

“I really feel independent living here. I’ll probably end up getting an apartment off-campus next year,” she said.

For Shum, the Shoreland’s location, about 20 minutes from campus on foot, holds particular appeal.

“You can leave the paradigm of just being a student on campus and what that entails when you come back here,” he said. “There’s a kitchen, and you can paint your walls or put up wallpaper—it’s more like a home than somewhere to sleep after class.”

Rothfield and his wife have their own plans to commemorate the Shoreland’s final year as an undergraduate dorm. On November 1, they will hold the “Shore-Olympics,” a day of athletic games that will include a contest to see who can throw Plato’s Republic the farthest.

The history department has also found a way to commemorate the Shoreland, offering a colloquium this fall that uses the building as a entry point for examining South Side and Chicago history. Student projects may include using video, photography, and audio to record student and alumni accounts of life at the Shoreland.