Classes to return to newly renovated Dartmouth Hall in winter
The 21-month long renovation period updated the iconic campus building, introduced new eco-friendly modifications and improved accessibility features.
On Oct. 24, spaces in Dartmouth Hall will reopen after a 21-month long renovation period that updated its interior with improved accessibility features and eco-friendly modifications that were almost entirely funded by College alumnae. Although faculty began moving into their offices in Dartmouth Hall on Sept. 30 and an official dedication ceremony will be held on Nov. 11, the building will not fully reopen for classes until the start of the winter term.
The College’s project management services senior director Patrick O’Hern said that COVID-19 related supply chain issues and labor shortages contributed to delays in construction. He said his team found it difficult to obtain certain materials, such as audiovisual equipment, needed for the renovation that are usually readily available.
According to Dartmouth Hall project manager Lindsay Walkinshaw, COVID-19 cases within the construction crew contributed to further delays in the completion of the project. In addition to individual workers contracting COVID-19, she said that a subcontractor experienced an outbreak within their crew, causing them to be absent from the worksite for several weeks.
The Call to Lead
About 1,700 alumnae raised over $25 million to fund the renovations, according to Call to Lead campaign co-chair and trustee Peggy Epstein Tanner ’79, who helped organize fundraising efforts for the project. Epstein Tanner said the Call to Lead campaign empowered alumnae to show their support for the College and for one another, especially after a period of “bad press” several years ago about whether Dartmouth was a “hospitable place to women.”
Epstein Tanner said Call to Lead also emphasized the importance of making fundraising contributions more accessible to smaller donors.
The renovated Dartmouth Hall features a donor wall in its entrance with the names of those who donated to the project, as well as a small exhibit in the basement honoring the history of coeducation — which celebrates its 50th year this year — and impact of women at Dartmouth.
The exhibit, set to open this week, features several walls with photographs of women at Dartmouth throughout the past several decades as well as display cases highlighting the contributions of women at Dartmouth. There is also a section detailing the history of the building itself, with the original classroom doors from the historic building lining the walls.
Walkinshaw said that she took over the project during construction in March 2021. She added that the building is designed with accessibility in mind to make it easier for students to navigate the building.
“Previously, to get from one side [of Dartmouth Hall] to the other, you’d be really limited with how far you could get without encountering some stairs,” Walkinshaw said. “… There’s a living room space on the third floor that [now] has some loose furniture for [greater] accessibility, there are multiple seating options within [Room 105] and every entrance into the building is accessible, whereas before there was one [accessible entrance].”
Walkinshaw said her team increased the building’s accessibility by adding outdoor ramps, incorporating accessible signage, replacing door knobs with lever handlesets and more. With the addition of a ramp leading to the front entrance of the hall, Epstein Tanner said she hopes the space feels more welcoming to all students.
“In the past there was kind of a back entrance where someone who was either in a wheelchair or on crutches could have easier access to the building,” Epstein Tanner said. “You almost felt like a second-class citizen if you were handicapped because you couldn’t go in the front door.”
Changes in Dartmouth Hall
The school hired Boston-based firm designLAB architects and construction manager Engelberth Construction to carry out the renovations.
O’Hern said the building was designed for LEED Gold certification — a classification that certifies the building’s lower environmental impact. He highlighted how the building is more energy efficient due to the installation of storm windows, reinsulation of the building’s exterior and the replacement of steam heating with hot water heating.
“We’re able to use the building more effectively over 12 months,” O’Hern said. “[The building now has] really good temperature control for everybody.”
Italian professor Giorgio Alberti, who worked in Dartmouth Hall for four years before moving with the French and Italian department to Berry Library during the renovations, said construction workers continue to develop the inside of Dartmouth Hall even as professors move back into their offices, calling the transition “a little premature.” However, Alberti said he appreciates the renovations and is excited to begin teaching students in the space.
“I think we’re very privileged to be here,” Alberti said. “They certainly packed a lot of things in the same building.”
ITAL 1, “Introductory Italian 1” student Claire O’Flynn ’26 said that she used a third-level alcove in Dartmouth Hall as a study space for her Italian midterm. She added that the updated interior of the building is more conducive to her working style than other work spaces, such as those offered by College libraries.
“There’s a huge whiteboard and I love to write everything out super big, so I really like [the space],” O’Flynn said. “I [also] like a lot of the little nooks and crannies, individual meeting rooms and small halls.”
Reflecting on his previous office in Dartmouth Hall, Alberti said the renovations improve upon many of the early building’s flaws and inconveniences.
“I had a dark, very drafty office, and there was no air conditioning,” Alberti said. “The [new] style is very much in dialogue with the identity of the building, but it feels like a completely different place. Everything is so much more rational.”