There’s a historic quality to the University of Tennessee. From the pictures in black and white on the walls of the Hodges library halls to some of the iconic buildings and volunteer traditions, UTK has plenty of things tethering it to the past.
The most notable and iconic of all of these places on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus is undoubtedly Ayres Hall.
The structure of the building is regal and academic looking, reminiscent of architecture one would find at old European colleges like Oxford. Instead of a location in England, where French fries are called chips, Ayres is right here in east Tennessee.
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has seen a fair share of change. With a bustling Cumberland strip in the outer part of campus to the constant, and some would say unrelenting, construction all over campus, it’s hard to find much of the old charm UTK’s campus still does possess.
To look past the traffic and scooters on campus, it can take some time at the university to see through the modern veneer and see its old charm and beauty.
However, once you do look past the modern buildings and 21st century technology on campus, the history that still lives and breathes at the University of Tennessee shines through.
I recall the first time I was able to see the magic and life on campus.
I was a freshman living at Clement Hall on campus and instead of going out to bars or parties on the weekend I would instead indulge in late night runs on the strip and through campus.
It wasn’t until I started going on these midnight excursions that I truly began to feel the life and energy that flows under the cobblestone of PED walkway and sensed the incredible history surrounding me.
At first, I couldn’t tell what the feeling I got from campus was.
It was my first time away from home, granted home is only 20 minutes away, but it was still further than I had ever been from my family. There were a lot of new people I was surrounded by, people I hadn’t quite learned how to get to know just yet because the social experiment that college is was still so new.
Gradually, as I began to get the hang of spending time and opening up to friends made on campus, I also started to see campus open up to me more as I continued on my middle of the night runs.
The pivotal moment for me was when I started running the stairs in my late night runs as well.
These being the infamous stairs towards the Hill of course and on this hill is the historic Ayres Hall.
Nearly a century old, Ayres Hall’s clocktower is illuminated at night by flood lights that shine on its face.
I think night time is the best time to appreciate Ayres.
During the day it can be so easy to walk past the building as its sun-bleached exterior doesn’t grab the eye with a vivaciousness or youthful gleam.
Instead, during the day Ayres can be mistaken for a purely academic building.
It’s night time where you really see the beauty of the building. When you have the flood lights pointed up, peering through the mist of the night up toward the clock face.
Like a spotlight shone on an old Hollywood actor’s face, there is a reverence and poetry to Ayres that only the night time can reveal.
Once you see Ayres in this state, you will know what I mean when I tell you that Ayres’ illuminated tower in the pitch-black of night makes campus really feel alive and like home.
It’s in part knowing that countless students before me walked this path on campus and made it out okay.
There is also something deeply spiritual about seeing Ayres in the night offset against the blackness and abyss of the night sky.
Grant Mitchell is a senior majoring in public relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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