Crowded into one of the apartments at the Christiana West Tower, a group of seven University of Delaware alumni delighted in recounting the two years they spent living together in the towers.
The friends, all members of the Class of 1984 and 1985, tossed around memories of kegs in the elevator, air conditioning units one could stand and dance on, doors always open so you could float from one room to the next and “rooms jam-packed with people dancing and the sweat dripping off the windows because there were so many people in here,” as alumna Rachael Siegel Weinstein described it.
For the group, the towers represent an amalgamation of moments: spring fling, the walk to the SuperFresh, watching Michael Jackson moonwalk on television the first time, watching Princess Diana’s wedding, the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the themed parties – like when the Pathmark opened and someone took discarded pallets to create a boardwalk for a beach theme as well as other themes not fit to print.
“It’s how we all met,” Jaime Green summarized.
The Christiana Towers, the 17-story twin buildings that have been part of the Newark skyline since 1972, have officially closed their doors. After 47 years housing thousands and thousands of students, officials from the university explained that the towers have outlived their financial and functional lifespan and will be demolished.
Saturday, as alumni flocked back to campus for the university’s annual Alumni Weekend, graduates were able to visit the towers one last time, tour two dorm rooms and write notes on the walls to send the buildings off.
“There's a few of us that transferred to Delaware in our junior year so this is the only place we lived in,” Pam Frank Reinholz said. “North Campus, that's all we knew.”
The best time of the year, Kathy Raymond Irwin added, was the fall.
“When you looked out the windows, the trees were beautiful,” she said.
For friends and former roommates Helen Widder Flood and Carolyn Guenveur, Class of 1979, the view from the towers was also a highlight.
“We had just a lot of fun going to parties and hanging out in this room,” Flood said, standing in the the Christiana Commons, the lounge located between the towers.
The pair decided to come back in conjunction with their 40-year reunion and to bid the towers farewell.
“Once a Blue Hen, always a Blue Hen,” Guenveur said.
Cameron Showell, a 2010 graduate, never lived in the towers himself, but he – like many others in the towers’ long history – partied there.
“I’m going to miss them. They’re an icon, the skyline for Newark. It’s sad to see the skyline change," Showell said, adding that he has many memories of study nights with friends at the towers.
Dave Alick, Class of 1994, drew a red solo cup on the memory wall and added the words, “first college beer.”
He recalled touring the towers during his freshmen orientation.
“There were a lot of wide-eyed, frightened freshman whose first experience of looking in the dorms was the towers,” he said.
The building represents that time of transition – a first taste of independent living, doing laundry, making a bed and living with strangers, he said.
“These were just such formative years. The memories are ingrained,” he said. “It’s great watching people reminisce. It’s like coming home. A home away from home.”
For Karen Queen, Class of 2004, the towers were a nice change from her time in Kent Hall, a traditional-style dorm on The Green. In the towers, she noted, you could have a TV.
Everyone was friendly, she recalled, and it was easy for students to meet their neighbors. It became a reprieve during her time in college, she noted.
“It is your home for nine months. If you have a bad class or a bad day, your dorm became restful. It was a home away from home,” she said.
Standing in one of the former apartments, she recalled the long walk down from the 11th floor during fire drills at night, which she said was the most vivid memory.
“It was a significant part of my experience,” she said of the building. “I thought, ‘Let’s go back one more time.’”
After picking up pens to write their messages on the walls, Green and her six friends noted that they had a lot of fun at the towers.
“We all just got thrown together. None of us knew each other before we were here. We came in as transfer students,” Green said. “These are the people who knew you before you were anybody.”
Now, the friends – which call themselves the Magnificent 7 – get together every year, despite having jobs, kids and other responsibilities, she said.
“Thirty-seven years, we’ve been friends,” Green said.
“Lifelong friends,” Reinholz added.