Rock of Ages

Workers using a large crane place the Spirit Rock in a temporary position alongside the North Parking Garage on Aug. 1, 2020. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

It’s become a treasured part of student life at UConn – painting the Spirit Rock on the north side of campus with messages that range from lighthearted to solemn to downright zany. On a hot Saturday morning this month, that rock was lifted from its longtime space on campus to make way for construction – but have no fear, the rock is once again ready to be slathered in painted expressions of pride and joy from UConn students and alumni.

In fact, moving locations is nothing new for this rolling stone: The original rock was broken up during construction in 1958, and the triangular, 7-foot-high piece known today as the Spirit Rock was moved to the corner of North Eagleville and Hillside roads.

It was moved again in the late 1990s – this time to storage on the Depot Campus — when the University built the Lodewick Visitors Center at that location and the nearby North Parking Garage. That storage, meant to be temporary, ended up lasting until the idea was raised in 2008 to re-install the rock and it was rescued from a weedy lot.

A hazmat team cleaned it up and sandblasted it down to the original surface to remove old lead-based paint before the rock was placed on a flatbed truck and hauled to the site where it sat until recently.

Over the following years, more than 1.25 inches of paint accumulated layer by layer, according to a test that UConn Facilities Operations conducted in 2018 in a small corner of the rock, carefully using a small drill bit to go through the layers until they felt the edge hit rock.

These pictures, by University Photographer Peter Morenus, capture the complex operation involved in moving the Spirit Rock to its new – permanent? – home: