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Before demolition, Reunions offers last chance to visit Butler Apartments

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An open house held on Saturday was one of the last opportunities to see Butler Apartments — a graduate housing complex built shortly after World War II that was intended to last for only a decade — before it is torn down this summer having exceeded its projected life-span by almost sixty years.

Many graduate students who resided in the complex remembered it fondly, all the while acknowledging its flaws.

Simon Leblanc GS, who is studying applied and computational mathematics, and Sebastien Philippe GS, who is studying mechanical and aerospace engineering, explained that Butler Apartments offers an outdoor and community spirit that does not exist in the other graduate housing options.

“I like the environment and especially the community spirit,” Leblanc said. “People are really nice and friendly.”

The location is also great, Leblanc said, explaining that Butler Apartments is about as close as one can be to campus as a graduate student.

However, the Butler buildings have paper walls, no insulation and a poor central heating system, Philippe and Leblanc noted. Because the heating and air conditioning are lacking, they said, the rooms get extremely hot during the summer and very cold during the winter.

The Butler apartments were originally U.S. Army barracks, transported to Princeton after the Second World War to provide emergency housing for soldiers returning from the war. Because the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the G.I. Bill, provided funding for higher education for returning soldiers, the University had to quickly accommodate a massive increase in its student population.

The apartment complex was only supposed to be temporary, as federal regulations required the former barracks to be demolished. Even though the government transferred ownership to the University in 1948, residents back then still assumed that they would be the last people to live there. However, plans to demolish the housing never came to fruition, and Butler Apartments survived until 2014.

“[The housing] was meant to be temporary,” Leblanc said, “but it served us well.”

Butler Apartments will be demolished after Lakeside Apartments opens on Lake Carnegie. Philippe said that he will be moving there, while Leblanc said that he will be moving off-campus.

The University had intended to build new homes for faculty and staff on the Butler site, but these plans were postponed due to the recession. bui

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