When the rest of campus is wet and icy, the walkway outside of Evans Hall is a dry, warm haven. Observant students might even notice steam rising from the steps on a particularly cold day.
This isn’t a natural phenomenon — underneath the walkway, Evans Hall has a heating system that warms the landing.
The heating system was installed around 10 years ago, said Allen King, director of OU Landscaping and Grounds.
“Ten years ago, the steps were deteriorating and the porch was completely rebuilt and re-poured,” King said.
Though it’s tempting to assume the steps are heated for OU President David Boren’s convenience — Evans Hall is home to Boren’s office, after all — King said Evans has the heating system because it receives the brunt of bad weather due to its location.
Weather forecasts can be frustrating! Can't they? - DBo— David Boren (@President_Boren) March 4, 2015
“Since that building faces the north, and it’s actually exposed to the elements of winter, they decided to go ahead and try a heating element to keep it warm so [the steps] wouldn’t ice up,” King said.
My personal fascination with the steps outside of Evans Hall began only a few days ago. I was enjoying the snowy campus last weekend, when one of my friends noticed steam rising from the steps. We flocked to the walkway, warming our legs and hands and speculating what could possibly cause the ground to be so warm.
I pondered it for a few days before returning to Evans Hall to determine whether the warmth I felt from the steps that Saturday was real or in my head.
I brought along visual editor Tony Ragle and assistant news editor Mike Brestovansky. We sat outside of Evans Hall on a chilly Monday and agreed: the steps were significantly warmer than the outside air. We received a few puzzled looks from people walking in and out of Evans Hall, but our hearts and buns were too warm to notice.
we're very excited. the steps are at least 10-15 degrees warmer than the outside air.— Dana Branham (@danabranham) March 2, 2015
King said that although the heated steps keep the area outside Evans Hall dry and ice-free in the face of winter weather, OU’s landscaping and facilities management teams still check the area regularly.
“It’s one of the things that’s electric, so you never know when you’re going to lose power and something’s going to go wrong,” King said. “Even though they’re heated, we still check them routinely during every ice storm and snowstorm.”
Friday, when I interviewed to be a small group leader at Camp Crimson this summer, I was asked what the best kept secret at OU is. I stumbled over my answer, thinking of cozy study spots and advice from older students and how delicious the potato soup at Couch Express is on Tuesdays. But the very next day, I had an answer that I wish I’d said in the interview. The best kept secret at OU? Definitely the toasty warm steps outside of Evans Hall.