Millions of dollars in renovations haven’t exorcised the ghosts of 100-year-old Lincoln Hall.
In fact, planners have gone out of their way to protect those ghosts, and the tenants moving back in to the building this month are being encouraged to embrace them.
Lincoln logging on
Matthew Tomaszewski, an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has for the past two years been deeply involved with the Lincoln Hall construction project, which is nearing completion. Tomaszewski said he is excited to show off the work, which was done to make the building more energy efficient, better utilize its learning and administrative space and protect its historic architecture. | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
“The best thing has been to watch people’s faces when they come back,” said Matthew Tomaszewski, an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “If you were in this building before, you know where the flaws are and you know how much work has gone into getting this right.”
The great success of Lincoln Hall has been not only its re-creation as an energy-efficient, state-of-the-art instructional facility, but the rebirth of its early 20th-century architectural flair.
“From the very beginning we planned to give nods to the historic spaces,” Tomaszewski said. “The biggest surprise was how well the building was designed and has held up over the years. The basic structure was intact and very strong and all of the (support) columns were aligned remarkably well.”
Changes are evident from the moment you enter Lincoln Hall’s Quad-side entrance, with its lustrous copper accent surrounding original wood doors (the doors are among the final details of the project and will be refinished prior to the project’s completion).
The doorway leads to the cavernous Memorial Hall, which has had most every detail restored to its original luster. Gold foil accoutrements cover the ceiling and all of the room’s colors have been restored to original hues.
Tomaszewski said architects washed the paint down to the original coat and even discovered Greek-inspired designs that were added back that hadn’t been seen in decades.
And in areas in the building where original parts or pieces needed to be replaced (only about 10 percent), they were used elsewhere in the building.
“Where we could, we brought it back to life again,” he said. “If it wasn’t too damaged, we found another use for it. We found creative ways to incorporate it into the construction.”
For example, the main secretarial stations in the administrative offices are decorated with boards taken from other parts of the building during construction.
Lincoln’s bust, which sat in a case between the Great Hall’s dual staircase, is having its oft-rubbed nose refurbished and will be re-set with instructions to students to start rubbing it off all over again.
“We thought it would look so odd to put it back there unfinished,” he said. “We wanted Memorial Hall to look just as it was designed to look. Rubbing Lincoln’s nose is a rite of passage and something we wanted to continue.”
And what has been taken away from Lincoln Hall holds as much impact as what has been added.
The fourth floor used to be the cluttered and, according to some late-night working students, creepy home of the Natural History and World Heritage museums, the space over the years serving as a catch-all for odd collections and items of seemingly unknown origin.
The only lighting was through a series of rectangle shaped “portholes” that let only the scantest amount of sunlight in.
“It was dark up here because they didn’t want natural light coming through and harming the collection,” he said. “It’s had an odd, hodge-podge of uses. Nobody wanted to come up here because if you made a wrong turn you might run into a moose or something.”
The museum collections have been moved, and in its place is a well-lighted space containing several uniform rows for office cubicles and private student-advising rooms.
The porthole lights were kept with the redesign because historical preservation rules prohibited cutting larger windows, which could effect the integrity of the outer design. A porthole sits at most every workstation on the fourth floor and the dark old museum space is now flooded in natural light from skylights cut into the ceiling.
“People come up here now and say, ‘Oh, wow,’ ” Tomaszewski said.
He said planning for the work has been a lesson in democracy, with every unit having been given a voice in the project.
Classroom space on the first floor has been reworked entirely.
Once equipped with overhead projectors, the rooms have been outfitted with new computer-aided projectors, large screens and speaker systems.
Classrooms vary in size to accommodate every academic setting, but designers have switched the orientation of some of the larger lecture halls, putting professors closer to the students they’re teaching.
And, in a nod to the “retro” feel of the overall building, original wood doors and other accents were kept in the classrooms.
“There are still larger classrooms but they will be far more functional,” he said. “These classrooms have a lot of capabilities and should take us far into the future.”
The building was mechanically retrofitted to meet LEED Gold standards, and includes “smart” sensors that adjust light and temperature controls automatically. Upgrades have been substantial and include flooring, lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning, all working together for a “sustainable design.”
All of the mechanical elements were placed in the basement. To make them all fit, workers dug the basement deeper, using a “micropile” process to shore up the foundation.
There also are more electrical outlets throughout the building, which has wireless access as well.
“Some of the solutions they came up with to work around obstacles are just amazing,” he said of the various contractors involved with the work. “It’s felt good to bring this building back, but there were a lot of people involved in this project.”
Facilities and Services will manage maintenance issues in the future.
One of the problems with the old building was easily finding the correct office or classroom, something designers hope has been alleviated with better space planning and delineation.
Generally, space on every floor has been opened up and is being better utilized for instruction and administrative space. The second floor features office space for student academic affairs, Applied Technologies for Learning in the Arts and Sciences, and the LAS dean and staff. The third and fourth floors are home to the departments of sociology and communication and include research space.
“Occupants of the building used to say they felt isolated here,” he said. “That shouldn’t be the case any longer.”
Upgrades to the theater’s cable mechanisms, which once took up portions of all four floors, created new third- and fourth-floor space that was retrofitted for classrooms, offices and research areas.
“We’ve reclaimed a lot of space, and the architects worked with us from day one concerning the programmatic needs,” he said. “We’ve gotten so much more space out of the same footprint. We tried to anticipate the needs into the future and we had the involvement of all of the units. The campus at large has done a great job of helping us out.”
Administrative employees have for the last two years worked at offices inside the Computer Applications Buildings and have started moving back into Lincoln Hall. He said a departmental move-in schedule has been developed and the building would be fully operational in time for the fall semester.
One of the most evident new features is the three-story glass vestibule, which juts out from the east side of the building toward the interior courtyard, giving every floor a sun-exposed lounge area and aerial view of the two refurbished courtyard spaces.
“People never really used the courtyards, but that’s something we hope will change,” Tomaszewski said.
It is hoped the additional lounge areas provide a natural gathering place for students to study, and at the same time alleviate some of the traffic-jamming tendencies the building traditionally has exhibited during busy class changes.
There are plans to eventually add a café on the first floor.
“The goal is that people use the space the way we hoped they would,” he said.
And one of the most beautiful changes has been the historical restoration made to the elaborately accented theater.
Seats were replaced, though the original metal caps at each row’s end were saved, and the original plaster reliefs gracing several theater locations have been restored.
“The attention they paid to the detailing was just amazing,” he said. “There were some real artists and craftsmen working on this.”
Tomaszewski said construction workers are tending to many of the final smaller punch list items over the summer. He said the new building will be celebrated during Homecoming weekend this fall, with the formal dedication held in February to commemorate President Lincoln’s birthday.
With 16,000 students taking classes at Lincoln Hall in the last semester it was used, Tomaszewski said there are many people eager to take a look at their old LAS haunt.
“Almost every student who comes to the university has a class in this building,” he said. “There are generations of people who have been through this building, and many of them were saying it needed work done 20 years ago.”