Webster Hall renovation begins

by Jean Blackerby | 4/21/97 5:00am

Workers have already begun the process of transforming Webster Hall into the new home of Dartmouth's Special Collections library, and the process should be completed by next winter.

Asbestos is being removed from the building, and major structural remodeling should begin in the next few weeks, according to Director of Facilities Planning Gordon DeWitt.

DeWitt said the renovations will require "a lot of demolition inside the building," including the removal of the main floor and the excavation of the underground stacks between Baker Library and Webster Hall, which will take place this summer.

Once completed, the Webster renovations will provide much-needed space for the millions of books, manuscripts and photographs in Special Collections. Currently, the rare items are in an overcrowded space at Baker Library.

Bruce Rauner '78, a venture capitalist from Chicago, donated $5 million to help fund the renovation of Webster Hall, expected to cost approximately $10 million.

When the plan to make Webster Hall the home for Special Collections was announced in winter 1995, students opposed the loss of the medium-sized performance venue. The Student Assembly organized a rally to convince the College to build a replacement for Webster Hall.

The College has not announced any plans to create an alternative medium-sized social space.

Director of Student Activities Linda Kennedy said she is concerned about the loss of space.

"There's no similar space," Kennedy said. "We haven't had a term without Webster until now." Concerts that are too big to be held in Collis and too small for Leede Arena will no longer take place, she said.

"We just won't be able to have medium-sized concerts any more," she said.

Karen Lefrak '98, the chairman of the Programming Board, said students have not forgotten about the impending loss of Webster Hall's programming space, but have abandoned it as a lost cause.

"I think that students aren't thrilled about losing that programming space, but they're pretty sure it's impossible to change the College's plans at this point," she said.

Lefrak said the Programming Board is always looking for other space, especially since the renovations of Webster have made it impossible to use.