As Florida A&M University continues to demolish older, abandoned residence halls — five since 2019 — its efforts to raze Truth Hall have hit a snag in the form of a legal challenge.
Truth Hall is scheduled to be turned into green space, according to FAMU.
However, a lawsuit has been filed in order to preserve the historic building.
Truth Hall was named after former women’s rights activist and slave Sojourner Truth, who distinguished herself to foster a community of women to become independent and strengthen human rights. It sleeps 99 students every semester but has been closed since 2020.
Built in 1958, it is also eligible to stay on the National Register of Historic Places which requires a building to be at least 50 years old.
Delaitre Hollinger, a Tallahassee native and president of the National Association for the Preservation of African American History and Culture, wants to keep Truth Hall preserved because of the historic value it holds. Hollinger filed the lawsuit late February in Leon County Civil Court, asking for an emergency order for the demolition be put on hold. The lawsuit describes how much irreversible damage will be done to the 63-year-old building. Hollinger said he would like for it to be restored for museum space to benefit the university and the surrounding community.
The demolition of the five-building Paddyfote residence hall took place last summer and is now green space. It was an iconic dorm that was more than 50 years old, and many students were upset to see it removed. It was rumored that the area would be converted to additional parking spaces.
Junior electrical engineering technology student Daniel Buckley says it would make sense if it did make additional parking as there is not enough for students.
“I’ve gotten five parking tickets, my car towed twice because I struggle to find adequate parking for students. Most of the spaces are for faculty. Why not turn the piece of property into something useful?” Buckley said.
Andrew Skerrit, a spokesman for the university, declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The 30,000-square-foot Truth Hall would be too costly to build like new, says Florida A&M University Vice President of Student Affairs William Hudson Jr. It would cost more to fix the deteriorated building with electrical and plumbing issues, than to tear it down.
“We have to balance the cost of renovation versus the cost to build it like new,” Hudson said. “In order for students to want to attend the university, the amenities the residence hall provides plays a substantial factor.”
The funding to renovate Truth Hall was spent on the completion of the newest residence hall, FAMU Towers.
Hollinger argues that there is funding available at the state and federal level to keep Truth Hall. He is awaiting the decision on the restraining order and a hearing date to be scheduled.