Well, some might say, "hey, they're only 100 years old and good as new." But the historic UM oval is getting a face, er, rather foot, lift.

The University of Montana is "paving" a new future that includes the turning of some old stones. One-hundred-year-old bricks, to be exact. This summer, the historic brick walkways of UM’s Oval got a facelift, thanks to a large-scale reconstruction project in the heart of campus. What used to be clunky and timeworn bricks that made riding bikes, rushing to class or wheelchair accessibility difficult, is now stamped, smooth concrete ꟷ leaving behind generations of stubbed toes and careful balancing on the iconic and beloved paths.

So many bricks had become damaged from years of freezing and thawing that tt caused most of them to settle and create hazards. Funds for the $250,000 infrastructure investment, awarded to Knife River of Missoula, were made available from a University bond sale last year that generated $63 million ear-marked for investments in student-serving infrastructure and capital improvements. The new concrete is textured to resemble bricks, reflecting UM’s classical aesthetic and original design.

These campus walkways didn’t even exist 1969. What I found fascinating was that the   bricks were originally laid in downtown Missoula streets between 1912 and 1914. They were later removed and installed on campus as cross-ways that run east-west and north-south on the Oval. The first 80 years of the campus lacked walkways across the Oval, and it was considered taboo to walk across the campus greens.  GET THIS:  University archives include records of a paddling punishment for those caught breaking the rules. A   silent sentinel blew a whistle when the greens were trespassed.


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