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Plumb Hall stairs dreaded by students

Plumb Hall stairs dreaded by students

Jon Coffey

A student makes the trek up the 83 stairs of Plumb Hall between class periods Wednesday afternoon. Contrary to what many students think, it is the increased depth, not height, of Plumb Hall stairs that causes them to seem more exhausting.

As Miley Cyrus once said, “It’s the climb” – the climb to the third and fourth floors of Plumb Hall, that is.

The stairs are a well-known gripe on campus. But what is it exactly that makes these stairs so tough to climb?

Despite many myths, the stairs of Plumb Hall are not taller than any other stairs on campus. All of the stairs on campus are just around seven inches in height. In fact, the marble stairs between the first and second floors of Plumb are nearly a quarter-inch shorter than this, since this set of stairs has two more steps than the other flights of stairs in Plumb that aren’t marble.

“I don’t normally get winded when I go up stairs, but when I go up the Plumb Hall stairs I do,” said Tyler Lang, freshman theater major.

According to a 1952 issue of The Bulletin in University Archives, during the construction of Plumb Hall between 1915 and 1917, the United States entered into World War I, which restricted the budget. Therefore, an elevator was not installed and marble stairs were only put between the first and second floors.

An elevator was installed in 1956, and a new one was installed in 1980, making Plumb Hall accessible to everyone.

Others say that Plumb Hall has more stairs between each floor, but that isn’t true, either. However, it does have more stairs total. There is a total of 83 stairs from the basement to the fourth floor. Fifteen of these are between the basement and first floor, 24 are between the first and second floors and 22 are on each of the flights between the second and fourth floors.

These numbers are comparable to Beach Music Hall, which has 22 stairs per flight. Visser Hall has 24 stairs per flight. On the other hand, these halls don’t have as many floors, as both have only three floors and no basement.

Cremer Hall, where the School of Business resides, has the most floors of any academic building on campus with five floors. However, there are only 18 stairs between each floor here, meaning the total number of stairs is 72, which is 11 less than in Plumb Hall.

“They (Plumb Hall stairs) are different proportions than the other stairs in other buildings. They’re wider, but not taller, and so it’s weird,” said Petra Jacobson, freshman nursing major. “It makes you more tired.”

It is true that the stairs in Plumb have more depth than other stairs. They are approximately 11 and three-quarters of an inch deep, compared to the stairs in Cremer, which have a depth of 10 inches. This slight difference adds up.

“The depth of the stairs would make a significant impact on the difficulty level,” said Erin Blocker, instructor of health and recreation and assistant track and field coach. “This would especially be true for people with shorter legs.”

It isn’t necessarily true that walking up stairs burns more calories than walking on a flat surface, but it does raise the metabolic rate and engages the muscles in the hamstrings, gluts and quads. The duration of any physical activity has an impact on cardiovascular health, and since the Plumb Hall stairs do take longer to climb than other stairs because of their increased depth and number of stairs, this could explain why they cause anyone who uses them to feel worn out.

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