AROUND THE QUADS
A New Look for Hamilton Hall
By Shira J. Boss '93
construction and renovations that have been improving facilities on
the Morningside Heights campus will engulf Hamilton Hall next. The
familiar red-brick exterior will largely remain the same, with the
addition of a second entrance leading directly into the new
Admissions Office. But classrooms will be overhauled and modernized
for 21st century technology, offices will be renovated - including
the creation of a new center for the Core Curriculum on the main
floor - and the lobby will be redone.
"Hamilton Hall is the centerpiece of the College," says Dean
Austin Quigley. "We plan to take the lobby and convert it
into a display area for the history of the College and the
project began with the remodeling of two test classrooms last
summer. Based on the evaluations of those rooms by faculty,
students and administrators, plans call for the renovation of six
more classrooms this summer. Work on plumbing, ventilation and
electrical capacity began in January, and renovation of the main
floor and the first floor will begin this spring. The project will
continue in phases through at least 2004. "Some of what we're doing
is uncovering the original intention of McKim, Mead & White and
restoring some of the grandly conceived spaces," says Frances
Halsband of R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband Architects. The
other piece, she says, is upgrading it to the level of a 21st
Hamilton was built in 1905 at a cost of $500,000 and from the
start housed the undergraduate college offices and
"When it was built, it was a great and noble home for the
College, with grand spaces and libraries and classrooms above,"
says Halsband. "In its original state, it had a two-story library
where the men of the College would gather and read, and enormous
student lounges in the basement." Today's third floor was added in
the 1950s and sliced that open library space in half; the lobby was
redesigned in the 1950s and 1960s.
Hamilton still houses a third of undergraduate classrooms, and
part of the $14 million renovation budget comes from a larger
classroom renovation project.
"It's such a significant teaching environment, and there's such
an emphasis on academic spaces in this [2000-2004] capital plan,
rather than the student spaces - like the residence halls and
Lerner - that were the focus of the last five-year plan," says
Mark Burstein, vice president of facilities
building will be in continuous use during renovation, so the work
is taking place in stages and the timeline is flexible. The work
will cosmetically improve the interior and modernize the
"What we see with buildings built at the beginning of the
[last] century is that they're wonderfully intact because they were
built so well," says Sean Joyner, director of programs for
design and construction. "They have good bones. We're putting in
new lungs and central nervous system."
model classrooms - a seminar room and a lecture room - were
completed last summer. Room 402, the seminar room, was specifically
designed with Core classes in mind. It has carpeting and concealed
wiring, with wood paneling added to the lower part of the walls to
frame the windows and old-fashioned slate blackboard. Substantial
wood chairs surround a heavy wood seminar table.
would like to add as much wood as we can afford, even more than
originally existed," Joyner says.
Direct and indirect overhead lighting with dimmers gives the
room a modern look, while the traditional wood creates an old-Ivy
507, the lecture room, also has improved lighting and wood accents,
with individual wood desks and a smooth, checkered
Architect's cutaway view
of the main floor of a rebovated Hamilton Hall.
PHOTO COURTESY R.M. KLIMENT & FRANCES HALSBAND
Hamilton's renovation is part of a broader project around South
Field that includes renovating Butler Library, revitalizing the Van
Am Quad and re-aligning the walkway in front of Hamilton where
historic gates from the midtown campus will be
"It's about creating a symbolic center for the College on South
Field," says Quigley.
major piece of the renovation will be moving the Core Curriculum
headquarters from an administrative office on the fourth floor to
an extended suite on the first floor that the admissions office had
outgrown. Admissions, meanwhile, will move to a duplex space on the
other side of the building, where the Office of Student Affairs and
the Financial Aid office (now in Lerner) used to be. "The Core to
the right and admissions to the left [as you enter Hamilton Hall]
is really what the College is about," Burstein says.
Core center is expected to include a library with general education
books and background materials, a seminar room for the
approximately 50 Core teachers to come together for their weekly
meeting, and a room for developing online resources.
"It's important to give the Core a space that students and
faculty will be attracted to and where they'll be able to think
about how they learn and teach," says Kathryn Yatrakis, dean of
Dedicating such a space to the Core Curriculum is expected to
encourage more interaction among the faculty and cross-usage of
their teaching materials, especially in Literature Humanities,
Contemporary Civilization, and Art and Music Humanities. "It's
developing the Core as a set of related courses rather than
juxtaposed courses," Quigley says.
Plans for the lobby have not been finalized, but Halsband says
that after the architects looked at several ideas for changes, they
concluded that the original plans are still the best ones. Traffic
will be redirected and, as in Butler Library, modern lighting will
be installed in fixtures that resemble the originals.
"We're trying to bring out the original character of the
building," Joyner says, explaining that the architects will spend a
lot of time in Columbiana archives and at the New-York Historical
Society studying the original McKim, Mead & White drawings for
"When we finish," says Halsband, "we hope it will have the best
of the old and the best of the new."