Written by: 
Jessica DeLeón
Photography by: 
Ahna Hubnik

When Shelby Simmons Haney ('23) showed her sister, Emma, around UNT, she took her to the oldest building on campus. Haney had a connection to the recently renovated Curry Hall.

"Look, I helped!" Haney told Emma, a sophomore accounting major.

Curry Hall in 1948
Curry Hall in 1948

"I was grateful to be able to leave some sort of positive mark on my campus," Haney says, "I was proud I was able to show her the result of the hard work that our team accomplished."

Haney was one of several alumni who led the transformation of Curry Hall, which underwent heating, ventilation and air conditioning renovations along with aesthetic changes - including the updating of six classrooms - in a project led by UNT Facilities and the Fort Worth-based Baird, Hampton & Brown engineering firm earlier this year.

"The way it looks now is just phenomenal," says Carl Parsons, a mechanical engineer with UNT Facilities and the lead project manager. "The change that happened was pretty impressive."

Shedding Light

Curry Hall, built in 1912 and opened in 1913, has quite a history. It once housed the library and State Historical Collection, which included a rock piano, model ships and a stuffed buffalo head.

Now it's occupied by classrooms for various academic departments and the Teach North Texas program offices.

The classrooms were renovated to uncover the dark windows and install new carpet and ceilings.
The classrooms were renovated to uncover the dark windows and install new carpet and ceilings.

The renovation, part of the university's capital improvement program, started with an air conditioning update, but the Facilities team identified other items they wanted to improve.

They replaced furniture and put in new carpet and ceilings. They uncovered blacked-out windows in the classrooms so that classrooms now have natural light. They were also able to uncover historic wood windows to the main corridor that had been covered up as a part of previous building renovations.

"It's a place you want to be in now, as opposed to a dark cave," Parsons says.

Neely Shirey ('09), senior project manager at UNT Facilities, assisted with architectural and classroom pieces. Dallas architect Anita Moran, with the Office of Moran Architects, worked closely with Marcel Quimby, of Quimby Preservation Studio in Dallas, to make sure that the windows were historically accurate to the time period in which they were originally installed.

They even were able to find old photos of the original windows so that the new windows would match those from the past.

"It's incredible how much detail went into it," says Shirey, who was an interior design major in the College of Visual Arts and Design.

Designing Access

Kirk Plum ('18, '18 M.S.), a project manager and mechanical engineer with Baird, Hampton & Brown, noted that the changes improve the building's energy efficiency.

"It lived up to the whole `Mean Green' aspect," he says. "The building looks a lot better and embraces the historic nature of the oldest building on campus, but it will also save more energy. Through our energy assessments, we anticipate the energy cost savings after the design to be over 46% when compared to the existing utility usages. As an alumnus, I am proud that we were not only able to significantly improve the aesthetics of such an important building on campus, but we have also made a 110-year-old building much more sustainable for the next 100+ years. Now it's a space that everyone on this project is proud of."

For Plum, the most challenging aspects were that Curry Hall was originally built without HVAC and plumbing systems and some spaces were difficult to get into. Now Curry has a mechanical room to give better and safer access to the Facilities team.

"The building can't function without that," he says. "The previous mechanical equipment did not have a safe way to access the equipment, and some equipment did not have any access at all. By providing safe accessibility, we are enabling the Facilities staff to be able to properly maintain the systems that are integral to building operation."

Another challenge: getting the work completed before the fall semester started.

Haney, who was an interior design student at the time, assisted moving Teach North Texas in the building, while also learning about the construction process.

Her senior project focused on classrooms in higher education. Now working as a design specialist for UNT, she credits Shirey for opening her eyes to education design.

"Through her passion and my own desire to serve the students on campus, I fell in love with classroom design," Haney says. "I love being able to directly support our students here at UNT, and the challenge of finding new and innovative ways to do that."

From left to right: Carl Parsons, Shelby Simmons Haney ('23), Neely Shirey ('09) and Kirk Plum ('18, '18 M.S.) pose in the historic Curry Hall corridor.