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Why was the Hillcrest Building torn down? What was the history behind this structure? —Perry Alexander ’91

What remains of the Hillcrest Building today is a conspicuously vacant expanse of grass between UMBC’s West Hill and Terrace Apartments. Yet Hillcrest served as the site of the university’s first administration building in 1966. It housed student organizations and the popular basement social club known as The Rathskeller (or “Ratt,” for short) until its closure in 2000. However, the building’s history before it was acquired by the University of Maryland is a probable source of campus fascination with the building.

Hillcrest was the first structure in the history of the United States to be designed and erected specifically for the containment and rehabilitation of “criminally insane” patients. Campus tales posited that a patient who served as a model for the character of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs was once treated within its walls. Some reported seeing ghostly figures or hearing strange sounds. (The supposition that U.M.B.C. stood for “U Must Be Crazy” may also have roots in the building’s past.)

Local preservationists came to the building's defense when UMBC announced plans in 2004 to raze it to create additional parking and living space. In fact, the Hillcrest Historical Society successfully lobbied the Baltimore County Historical Trust to place it on its preservation watch list. But despite this, UMBC eventually obtained clearance to demolish Hillcrest in 2006 and it finally did so in July 2007.

Read more at http://magazine.umbc.edu/histories-and-mysteries/

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