Anyone living near the University of Alabama campus would’ve heard a loud explosion on the afternoon of June 23, 2022. The explosion on campus involved hazardous material found in the now renamed Nott Hall. Could it have been a prelude to the scheduled 2022 July 4th demolition of the University of Alabama‘s Tutwiler Hall?
Ryan Phillips in the Patch reported that the University of Alabama had evacuated its Honors Hall “out of an abundance of caution Thursday afternoon after a ‘potentially hazardous material’ was discovered in a storage room.” Phillips wrote that the material “was a chemical commonly used in labs that can become dangerous if dried.” He reported that “it will be transported to a nearby area and destroyed, which may result in a large detonation being heard around campus.”
A call made to the University’s Police Department about the noise made by the exploding material resulted only in a comment about a “controlled explosion” on campus. *
Al.com‘s William Thornton wrote:
Honors Hall is the former Nott Hall, renamed in 2020 following the recommendation of a working group to the University Board of Trustees. Its former namesake, Josiah Nott, helped found the medical school at UA in Mobile but supported slavery and misused medical evidence to argue that non-white races were inferior, according to a study.
Honors Hall houses the Honors College and was originally opened in 1923. It is located on the east side of the UA campus Quad.
The implosion of Tutwiler Hall, scheduled for the the Fourth of July, had received a lot of publicity. As far back as July 16, 2021, Mark Hughes Cobb had written an article “‘Good thing those old walls can’t talk:’ Former Tutwiler Hall residents recall University of Alabama days” about the impending demolition.
Ty Boyle and Lexi Crowe reported in The Crimson White that the University had been selling pieces of the old Tutwiler Hall building. On a Division of Student life website, commemorative bricks were going for $100 and room number plates were selling for $50.
There had been articles about the best ways to view the implosion of Tutwiler Hall, such as Al.com‘s Ben Flanagan‘s story “UA imploding Tutwiler Hall July 4: How to see the demolition live.” The event would even be livestreamed by the University.
Also on the chopping block with Tutwiler Hall in July was Harris Hall, as reported by The Crimson White‘s Reghan Bailey. Harris Hall, a co-ed dormitory built in 1939, would be demolished to make way in part for a twenty-one million dollar Sigma Kappa house, according to a story in The Crimson White by Ty Boyle. The destruction of Harris Hall, in terms of publicity, seemed to rank below that of Tutwiler Hall, which was built in 1968.
The price tag for the Sigma Kappa sorority building is not extraordinary. A House Beautiful article “The 15 Most Outrageous University of Alabama Sorority Houses” by Nikhita Mahtani described the University’s Greek mansions. Dominating the University of Alabama’s landscape are huge Greek mansions that are located on state owned property. The property is leased to the Greek organizations for a nominal amount, possibly as little as a dollar yearly.
T-Town is doubtlessly on the way to having a Fourth of July to remember.
* Does anyone know what that “potentially hazardous material” that was found in Nott Hall was and how it got there? The immediate news coverage of the explosion never clarified the matter.
2 thoughts on “KABOOM!!!”
Possibly old containers of picric acid. When dried, it can be unstable.
In response to the query about the nature of the hazardous material found in Nott Hall, a reader suggested that it might have been picric acid.
“Some years ago, Nott Hall was part of the School of Nursing and housed laboratory space In the days before test strips and cheap glucometers, picric acid was used as a reagent to measure glucose, as well as a component in some tissue stains. It’s stable when dissolved in water or fixed in some solid carriers. However, when it dries, the crystals are explosive and are especially sensitive to shock. My guess is that someone found a forgotten quantity in some out-of-the-way place.”