Construction to continue inside Dartmouth Hall during Commencement

The renovation of Dartmouth Hall is set to wrap up by August while the College gears up for a number of renovations in residential buildings, according to administrators.

by Angus Yip | 5/24/22 5:05am

by Caroline Kramer / The Dartmouth

As the College nears the end of its renovation of Dartmouth Hall, which introduced open study spaces and new mechanical systems, it is gearing up for a number of updates to residential buildings. Starting with Andres and Zimmerman Halls in East Wheelock House, the College plans to update nearly every dorm on campus over the next 10 to 12 years. 

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College is slated to host Commencement festivities on the Green in June, during which the ongoing renovations of Dartmouth Hall will continue with interior work, according to vice president of campus services and institutional projects Josh Keniston. 

Dartmouth Hall

Keniston said that Dartmouth Hall is scheduled to reopen in the fall, but will remain under construction during Commencement. Construction began in January 2021, and more than $25 million was donated by alumni for the renovation, according to the College campus services website.

“We’re currently focusing on doing some landscaping, and the goal is to make [Dartmouth Hall] look less like a construction site during Commencement,” Keniston said. He added that internal construction will continue during Commencement, but the College will minimize noise and focus on making Dartmouth Hall “visually appealing.” 

Keniston noted that when constructions are complete, Dartmouth Hall will contain an updated ventilation and insulation system, and the floor plan will be more “democratic,” with more study and group discussion spaces  located along the windows facing the Green. 

Externally, the building will be repainted and have a new roof, and entry will be made more accessible, Keniston said. The College focused on minimal external interventions to retain the look of “one of the most iconic buildings on campus” as much as possible, according to Keniston.

According to director of project management services Patrick O’Hern, Dartmouth Hall will house the French, Italian, German and Spanish and Portuguese departments as well as the Leslie Center for the Humanities, most of which were originally located in Dartmouth Hall before the renovations began. He added that the building will be ready for faculty and staff by August. 

North Fayerweather Hall resident Cameron Gilmore ’25 said that he is relieved about the upcoming end of noise from Dartmouth Hall’s renovations. 

“They use jackhammers, moving equipment and vehicles that are really loud,” Gilmore said. “I’m waking up way earlier than I would like sometimes, so this has definitely affected my sleep schedule.”

Residential buildings

The College intends to renovate Andres and Zimmerman Halls, both dorms in East Wheelock House, over the next two years by adding additional study areas, installing elevators in each building and modifying rooms into primarily singles and doubles, O’Hern said. He noted that these plans are modeled after the Morton Hall renovations in 2017, which received “a lot of positive feedback” from students.

O’Hern also said that the renovations in Andres and Zimmerman will help to alleviate any concerns about mold after the discovery of mold in the two halls last fall. He said that interior materials in the dorms, including “structural steel,” will be replaced and the renovated dorms will have improved air circulation. 

Keniston noted that renovations at Andres will begin right after Commencement and reunions in the summer and that the building will likely reopen next summer or fall, while renovations at Zimmerman will begin in the summer of 2023.

O’Hern added that the decision to renovate Andres and Zimmerman was not directly motivated by the discovery of mold, but rather because of multiple “overdue issues” involving plumbing and other mechanical systems, adding that older buildings on campus have held up better than newer ones. 

“One motto of our industry is that we don’t build like we used to,” O’Hern said. “The construction from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s is, in some ways, not up to the longevity of what you see from Mass Row, for example.”

Keniston added that in the next “ten to twelve” years, the College also intends to renovate the Fayerweathers, the Choates residential cluster, the River cluster, Massachusetts Row, the Gold Coast cluster, Butterfield, Russell Sage, Ripley-Woodward-Smith, Topliff, Richardson and Wheeler Halls, in addition to the Maxwell and Channing Cox senior apartment buildings. He noted that the College has not decided on the order of renovations yet but will determine the next few buildings in the sequence after discussions with the Board of Trustees in the summer or fall.

O’Hern said that improving accessibility and air conditioning systems is a top priority, but the exact plans will only be determined later this year.

Hopkins Center for the Arts

Earlier this year, the College announced plans for the expansion and redesign of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, which will be led by Snøhetta, a Swedish architectural firm. According to architectural design renderings released in April, the Hop will feature a new outdoor central forum, recital hall, dance studio, performance lab and theater rehearsal lab while existing spaces like Spaulding Auditorium will be modernized. 

Keniston noted that the renovations will also improve accessibility make the building more navigable.

“The Hop is a little bit like a maze right now, with multiple levels within a floor … We’re trying to make improvements for it to be easier to navigate,” he said.

O’Hern said that the College has recently completed “design development” and hopes to finalize construction documents in October and is also working with the town of Hanover to obtain the required building permits. He added that construction is currently planned to begin in the winter and is expected to last 18 to 24 months.

Keniston added that the College hopes to keep some areas of the Hop open during parts of the renovation, such as the Courtyard Cafe and Spaulding Auditorium.

“They may be closed partially for a term or two, but we’ll try and do it in phases so that some of these key spaces stay open even while some of the construction is still ongoing,” he said.

Other projects

O’Hern noted that Rollins Chapel is receiving a mechanical system renovation starting later this summer and will likely be operational by winter term. 

O’Hern added that Silsby 28 is currently being renovated to create two new classrooms with updated technology.