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Sander Hall, once the highest point in Hamilton County, housed roughly 1,300 UC students from 1971 to 1982. It was imploded on June 23, 1991.
Sander Hall's fall — 25 years later
A quarter century after UC's tallest building came down, UC shares memories of the implosion and recalls life in the 27-story coed dormitory
by John Bach
June 23, 2016
Several quick explosions.
The cloud of dust.
And Sander Hall was gone.
Those who were there may remember it like it was yesterday, but in fact, June 23, 2016, marks exactly 25 years since the 27-story glass tower that was Sander Hall, disappeared from the skyline on the southeast corner of campus.
It was 8:35 a.m. on Sunday, June 23, 1991, when UC's first coed dormitory was demolished — then the second tallest building to be imploded in the world.
It took roughly 520 pounds of dynamite to bring down the eyesore that had sat empty for nearly a decade. While it may have boasted a magnificent view as the once highest point in Hamilton County, Sander Hall opened in 1971 and closed with good reason just 11 years later.
The high-rise did not meet building codes and was considered both unsafe and too costly to upgrade.
Perhaps the only memories that live on more vividly than the day of its demise are those of Sander's occupied years. Over time, we've gathered many memories from readers who experienced the place firsthand, and we present those below.
A place for 'transparency'
I lived in Sander Hall three years, 1974-1977, and the last as an RA on the 17th floor. It was a great place to live and meet friends. I remember specifically when the Reds won back-to-back World Series how much we came together as a group to celebrate.
I also remember when the movie "Roots" showed and the TV room area was packed. One funny item I was told, as were many, that when the building was constructed the windows were installed the wrong way. As a result, it was hard seeing out at night but much could be seen from the outside in!
Julia Barlow Sherlock, '80
Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Putting the 'sand' in Sander
I lived in Sander freshman year, 1975-76, then returned as an RA for 1977-78 and 78-79. We had a GREAT group of folks, a crazy group, which was needed because those were crazy times.
One "moment" of many stands out. I was studying on a Sunday morning. The RA rooms were next to the trash chute, and my room on the 6th floor was right at the bend where the trash came down and changed course, or was slowed down, before making its way to the dumpsters. As I sat there that morning I heard this odd "whoooooooooshing" noise and then a huge SMACK as something hit the bend. I stepped out of the room and there was this sandy, dusty stuff floating around in the air. The smoke detectors then went off and we evacuated, as per usual.
Upon investigating further, we figured out that the guys upstairs -- on 19 or 20 -- had had a BEACH PARTY the night before, complete with baby pools filled with sand. When they dumped that sand down the trash chute on Sunday morning, it smacked the bend at my room and sent up a cloud of dust that got everybody up and out the door!
I was also at the implosion. A neighbor of mine worked for the construction company involved and got me a "back stage" pass. I took my 8mm video camera, and a large garbage bag because I figured there might be some dust. There had been warnings that week that there might have been asbestos used in Sander. I watched it fall, and recorded it, from a fairly close perspective near the church.
It was like Derby Day. Ladies were dressed in fancy clothes and hats. And when that thing came down, and that HUGE cloud went up and moved directly toward us, it was pandemonium. Everybody was racing around. I stuck the camera in the bag that I was very happy I'd brought with me. In a few minutes, I rewound the video and checked it out a few times to make sure I got it. Then I shot a few minutes of the aftermath. Except, I forgot that I had rewound it before starting to shoot new scenes, so I taped over the great footage I got of the building going down. Fortunately, my sis knew a fellow who collected news footage and had him put together a VHS tape of all the news stories back to back so I got to see it from every angle later.
Steve Magas, '79
A 'thousand people in their jammies'
I was one of the first residents of Sander in 1971. As I recall, the Student Senate had argued before the "co-ed" dorm was built that it would not, effectively, be suitable for human habitation. Sander certainly proved that to be true. How can I forget the almost nightly bomb scares that some fools called in to watch a thousand people in their jammies evacuate the building? After one cleared, my roommate, Randy Hoover, and I decided to run up the 20 flights of stairs to our suite. I thought I was going to die.
And if anyone had a class on Monday afternoon, he had to leave an hour early because at least one of the three elevators was used for laundry, and another was inevitably out of service. But the view to the south was spectacular! I think UC missed a fundraising opportunity by not raffling chances to push the detonator for the demolition.
Michael Ruberton, A&S '73
St. Louis, Missouri
A 'real' fire in Sander
I remember the day of the Sander Hall fire on the 6th floor (I think) that December day in 1981. It happened around lunch time, I was in my room on the 9th floor. It was finals time. The fire alarm went off and, as always, down the steps we went. After getting into the lobby, me and my friends were about to go to SAGA for lunch (Soviet Attempt to Gag America). Just then some guy ran up the stairs and said, "Hey guys it's a real fire, a girl just got through throwing a chair out of the window!"
Everyone left the lobby where the cafeteria was and went outside to the front. Sure enough there was a girl leaning outside her window with black smoke just pouring out over her head. She was moving around but was leaning out of the window to the point that it looked dangerous. All that we heard was fire engines and horns all over the place. It was like all of Cincinnati Fire Department was coming from every direction!
Then we all noticed two of the local TV news stations with helicopters flying around Sander Hall. This was big news. The tallest dorm in all of Ohio was on fire!
After some time, most of us left and went to the other cafeteria in Calhoun to eat lunch. Others went wherever because it was a little chilly that day. Soon, we were able to go back to our rooms later that day. Until the day that we all checked out, the 6th floor smelled smoky.
I liked Sander Hall and have very good memories of it.
William Randolph Jr, A&S '88
Death to disco
I lived in Sander Hall 1976-1980 as an RA on 10th floor for three years. In the mid-70's, you were either a disco lover or a disco hater. My floor always held the best keg parties with the biggest party utilizing the cafeteria connected to Sander. We held a "death to disco" party. Lots of kegs, so many we shorted out 1/2 the campus, and lots of crushed disco records which everyone put in a casket as they entered. Yes, a real casket purchased at Smilen Sams at the bottom of Vine street. Glad to see Disco really did die and rock and roll is still alive and well.
Mike McGraw, Bus '80
Easley, South Carolina
Friends for life from Sander
Sander Hall, or "Sander Box" as I called it, presented a unique weight-loss opportunity for me as I took the stairs and lived on the 17th floor. I was informed that my roommate was determined using a computer program that matched us well. We became great friends with much in common and still are friends today. I was a transfer student in 1975-76 and the floors were co-ed by suites, i.e., men and women lived on the same floor. The walls were quite sound proof. I don't remember being kept awake by Queen, Bowie, Pure Prairie League, the Allman Bros, Elvis Costello, Genesis or Springsteen.
It was interesting observing human behaviors during fire drills that sometimes happened late on weekend nights. Partying students had a difficult time negotiating the stairs to the ground. I remember students canvassed the endless traffic flow of students in and out of Sanderbox to campaign for Jimmy Carter. I recall a Jimmy Carter peanut roach clip, an unusual souvenir of that era.
The view was spectacular, my room 1760, faced downtown and I enjoyed it. It was really a nice dorm, convenient showers and ample space in the rooms.
Ruth Rossi, DAAP '78
Saw it fall from a distance
Memories of my time at Sander were during my freshman and sophomore years 1978 through 1980. Exam weeks were most always haunted by the very early morning fire alarms. Being on the 11th floor, it took about 40 minutes to get out of the building and stand in the cold. Spring brought a welcomed view of the sundeck on the top of Daniels Hall next door.
On the morning of the implosion, I waited to watch the event on TV at the scheduled drop time but there was a delay. I had to leave to open my pharmacy. I was heading to work east bound on I-275 to Blue Ash. At the I-275/I-75 interchange you can look south and see the taller buildings at UC. To my surprise, I saw the dust plume like a mushroom cloud rising from the spot where Sander once stood.
Chris Bavaro, Pharm '85
Jocks gotta leave too
I was an RA in Sander Hall during its 1st year. We had bomb scares and false fire alarms there almost every week, sometimes several times a week. I remember how it got harder and harder to get the football players to evacuate the building.
Diggs Dalton, DAAP '75, MBA '81
Pushing elevator occupancy over the max
We were the first to live in Sander Hall in 1971. I was an engineering student, and Sander probably never had a chance from the start. When we first moved in, we were told there had been no occupancy permit issued on the building, and through some horseplay, we found out that there has a waterline leak many floors above our 15th floor suite. Having rolled into the wall, it dished in rather easily, and we found the drywall was wet. We also noted that the 26th floor — the one with the great view — had all of its brand new furniture stolen within a few weeks of opening.
We did have a great view. Our suite looked out from the west (narrow) side of Sander, and we could see most of the campus.
The real "story" I remember and retell is when we were returning from lunch one day, we got on the infamous elevators and had a full cab of about 15 people. But because the elevators were not always available, another group of people (jocks!) wanted to make sure they were on for this ascent. All told, another 13 got on (good luck!). I think the elevator was over capacity by about 10. We asked some not to get on, because we knew we would be overloaded, but they didn't want to be separated, so they piled in. “Sardines” was an appropriate comparison.
Well, the elevator started up, and we could tell that this was not going to turn out well. The elevator got to what I would guess was the 12th floor, and the elevator ground to a halt after much straining. We all were a little ticked, because we knew our extra friends were the cause.
Being the jocks that they were, they started feigning being frightened and started yelling that the elevator was stuck, in their best mocking tones. To top that off, some of them started jumping up and down and yelling that the elevator was going to fall. By this time, a few of the original squished passengers were truly scared, so we had to ask our buddies to stop messing around.
Things got quiet, and we actually started to hear the cables stretching, starting with a medium "ding" and then proceeding every few seconds down the scale. By that time things were getting very quiet and very smelly. We waited for about 20 minutes and finally heard another elevator come up beside us.
In a few minutes a firefighter opened a side panel, stuck his head in and said, “Yep, this is the elevator.” He closed the panel, and we didn’t hear anything else from him.
We waited another 15 to 20 minutes, then we started moving up slowly — we figured, by being cranked up manually. When we got to the 14th floor and the doors opened, the floor of the elevator was actually a half a floor below the building floor; the cables had stretched that much!
Most crawled out, and some waited for the elevator to be raised closer to the proper height. I’ll always remember that as a day that a few Darwin Award Winners could have taken another 20 non-participants with them.
Other than that, most of our life was pretty dull. We had the usual mutts in our suite, including one guy, who will not be named, who earned a 0.25 his first arrogant quarter (all F’s and one D). For those who need the “walked both ways uphill, in the snow” perspective, the sexes were separated, and we had to trudge down several floors to meet up with the opposite sex. Eventually the floors, and then the suites, became co-ed, but we were the pioneers.
The following year, I moved off campus to Short Vine where I shared six rooms and two floors of a brownstone with five other people for a total of $16 a month per person. Take that, you whippersnappers!
Robert Mendlein, CAS '74, BS (CAS) '78
Nightly fire alarms
Let's be real. Sander Hall was a disaster waiting to happen. I lived there one year, 1979-80. Guys used to take pride in punching large holes in the walls. I knew a guy who tried to shove a Coke machine down an elevator shaft.
The nightly fire alarms were a joke. They got to the point that it was a game to see if you could hide from the RA and not evacuate the building. I recall kids throwing M-80s down the trash chute, which sounded like a cannon. Many of the freshmen who lived there didn't make it back for year two, and all they wanted to do was party hard.
My most lasting memory of Sander Hall was watching the 11 o’clock Al Schottlekotte news on a 6-inch black and white TV the night of the Who Concert stampede (and wondering why I wasn't there) and voting for the first time in the cafeteria lobby.
Sander Hall — good riddance!
George Thomas, Bus '83
Eyewitness account from a UC videographer
‘The booming of the sequenced charges; the sparkling falling glass; the billowing dust; and the hordes of cheering onlookers. What is not to like about that?’
It's been that long?
I was and still am an employee at UC. Back in 1991, I was doing some work for Professor Ahmet Aktan, Civil Engineering. While his main focus was bridges, he recognized the opportunity when Sander Hall was to come down. There was no discipline in Civil Engineering for Imploding buildings. It is an art, and Professor Aktan wanted to know more. We met with the Loizeaux implosion team any number of times; discussing their history and methods. I videotaped many a conversation as well as the actual implosion.
On the day of the implosion, I placed a video camera on the roof of the ROTC Rifle-Range building (well within the safe-zone), and myself and a former student, Todd Munro, Bus '94, on the roof of Zino's Firehouse restaurant. It was a good vantage point from the east looking at Sander in the morning light.
Prevailing winds in Cincy come from the southwest and we were due-east. We were prepared for the worst; to cover up the video cameras, and we had dust masks and hooded sweatshirts to protect us. That morning I had started the camera on the rifle-range and hurried over to Zino’s. We had no cell phones (they didn't really exist back then), no walkie-talkies (fear of signal interference).
We had to rely on the blowing of horns to signal the count-down. The horns were confusing but the crowd’s count-down was loud and clear. The booming of the sequenced charges; the sparkling falling glass; the bellowing dust; and the hordes of cheering onlookers. What is not to like about that?
Oh, the video was fine from both vantage points; Aktan was pleased. His crew put seismic sensors around the perimeter to measure the shock wave, but there wasn’t a shock wave due to the sequenced firing of charges.
I was told that once the cloud of dust headed south directly toward the dignitary’s stand that Mark Loizeaux grabbed his mother and jumped into a police cruiser and locked the doors. It belonged to UC Police Chief Ed Bridgeman [Ed ’76, M (A&S) '83], and he was locked out of his own cruiser.
The Thursday before the implosion I had videotaped inside Sander following and recording Professor Aktan. While walking around, I noticed there were many cables attached to help control the falling debris. There was sawing going on at different locations. Upon leaving the building, I thought how dumb it was going in there. At lunch, I ran into Mark and Doug Loizeaux and asked at what point do you know you’ve cut enough. They looked at each other and laughed.
“You know when cutting down a tree, the saw blade begins to bind; you’ve cut enough.”
Jay Yocis, Univ '70, DAAP '91, is a photographer/videographer for Governmental Relations and University Communications.
Tales from the Dorm Zone
This excerpt was originally printed in fall 2002 in 'Horizons News Update.'
Linda Bates Parker, MA (A&S) '70, had good reason to think her days of commenting on Sander Hall were long over. The 27-story dorm she once ran was imploded in 1991, and it has been decades since reporters called her to discuss UC's first co-ed dorm.
"The media was always there," laughs Bates Parker, now director of the UC Career Development Center. "Once a runaway kid hid in the residence hall. He was rumored to have been fed by students for a week."
As head resident counselor at Sander when it opened in 1972, she lived with her family in an adjoining building's apartment. It was just her, her family, 1,300 students and at least one very large snake. Bates Parker recalls the night one of the floors fell eerily still after a student emerged from his room with a boa constrictor around his neck demanding some peace and quiet.
"It was an amazing environment," she says. "My 5-year-old daughter had an unbelievable experience living there. She thought they were all her brothers and sisters; they were all so warm to her."
The early '70s was a turbulent period of change for young people, particularly on college campuses. "That group of students was breaking barriers and learning to experience life differently than their parents," the administrator says. "We had to try to manage the uncharted courses they were taking."
She chuckles at how male students once hung around outside the new building after dark to take advantage of mirrored windows that had been installed backwards. The clever students were also quick to figure out that a new dollar changer could not recognize color. "The students would Xerox a dollar," she says, "and then get change. There was a tremendous amount of traffic one morning as they cleared out all the change by noon."
Living in the diverse environment of Sander Hall cultivated leadership skills in students, she says. "They had to grapple with ways of making an impact with large numbers of students. Once they knew how to make a name for themselves in Sander, they had learned an important lesson about working and living in a diverse world."
The women of Sander even helped advance the women's liberation movement when they pushed for change after learning they occupied the bottom floors of the building because "the architects at the time thought that was just the way it was supposed to be," Bates Parker says. "They took the issue to the board of trustees and soon displaced the men on the top floors."