September 15, 2003

White Hall: 21st Century Renovation

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With the snip of a decorative ribbon, President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 officially opened the newly renovated White Hall to the public last Friday. The $12 million restoration of the historic building added a new central atrium, additional office space and various structural enhancements to the interior, while leaving the historic face of the building relatively untouched.

Also among the additions are fully-equipped seminar rooms, central air conditioning and redesigned space intended to allow for more cross-department collaborations.

“The renovation of the building is spectacular,” said Prof. Ross Brann, chair of near eastern studies.

The improved facilities have become the new home for the government, near eastern studies, English for Academic Purposes and art history departments. Those departments which relocated from other buildings are already up and running in their new location, as much of the move took place during last year’s winter recess in order to allow for a smoother and less disruptive transition.

The work on White is part of “a long term effort to bring together, around the Arts Quad, a set of core departments in the humanities and social sciences,” said G. Peter LePage, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, during last week’s dedication ceremony.

White is the third major Arts Quad building to receive such treatment. Prior renovations have focused on both Goldwin Smith and Lincoln Halls. Philip Lewis, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, made the restoration of White a central issue for the college during his years as dean.

The actual work of the reconstruction began in 2001 and was carried out by the architectural firm Peter Gisolfi and Associates.

White, which is situated near the northwest corner of the Arts Quad, shares with neighboring McGraw Hall and Morrill Hall the distinction of being one of the oldest buildings on campus. Collectively referred to as Stone Row, these buildings were built with stone quarried from the nearby base of Libe slope and comprised the very earliest incarnation of the University.

Because of its historical significance, planners were unwilling to alter White’s exterior stone walls, but were eager to update what Prof. Valerie Bunce, government, referred to as the “aesthetically challenged … inside.”

LePage praised the renovation as “faithful to the 19th century soul of the building while providing the infrastructure for a 21st century education.”

White was originally conceived as three separate buildings, two dorms flanking a central classroom area, which were separated by two impassable fire walls. Prior to the renovation students had to walk outdoors to travel from one side of the building to the other, an inconvenience that Lehman remembered vividly from his undergraduate days at the University.

“We had to run down the stairs, out into the Quad, in the other stairs and up to move a total of about fifteen feet,” said Lehman.

The building was officially dedicated last Friday, in a short ceremony on the Arts Quad. Attendees gathered in a tent for remarks from faculty members, while the Cornell Trombone Choir provided a fitting tribute with a musical rendition of “Achieved Are the Glorious Works.”

Archived article by Jeff Sickelco