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Historic Harris Hall To Be Renovated

May 20, 2008 | by Marla Paul
EVANSTON, Ill. -- The graceful gray limestone face of Harris Hall, with its stately columns, will never go out of style. The same can't be said for the inside of Harris Hall, however.

The historic 1915 neoclassic building at 1881 Sheridan Road on the Northwestern University Evanston campus -- which has never had a comprehensive modernization -- is getting a complete renovation and expansion with two additions. An elevator also will be installed. Construction on the project will begin in early 2009 and will be completed in 18 months.

The renovation will strike a delicate balance, updating the interior while respecting the building's status as an Evanston historic landmark with an architectural pedigree. Harris Hall was designed by Charles Coolidge, a principal of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the same architectural firm that designed the Chicago Public Library (now the Chicago Cultural Center) and the Art Institute of Chicago.

"We are very sensitive to its historic status," said John Brzezinski, senior project manager of Facilities Management, Design and Construction at Northwestern University.

Harris Hall is the last major addition to the Northwestern University campus during President Abram W. Harris' administration. Dedicated in 1915, the building was named in honor of Norman Wait Harris, a prominent Chicago banker and Northwestern trustee, who contributed $150,000 toward its construction.

"The first floor has some very beautiful architecture that we are preserving," Brzezinski said. The domed entranceway with the original dedication plaque will be preserved. The grand wood-paneled reception room with a fireplace will be renovated and gain a new terrace, but will retain its historical state.

Also on the first floor, the department of history will gain more space for faculty and staff offices and a faculty lounge.

A garden level addition will accommodate a history seminar room, the new Center for Historical Studies and study space for graduate students.

Floors two and three will be modernized and brought up to contemporary standards, Brzezinski said. Plans include creating a "racetrack" corridor with offices on the west and east sides as well as a core of office space in the center.

The building will have new mechanical and life safety systems including electrical, plumbing, sprinkler and fire alarm systems. The exit stairs will be enclosed and the existing stairs to the south, which are currently discontinuous at the second floor, will be reconfigured to be continuous from the basement to the third floor. The building also will be fully accessible, with a reconfigured ramp at the north entry and full accessibility within the building. Harris Hall will be a certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building.

The architecture firm Weese Langley Weese designed the renovation.

Harris Hall will be vacated in December with the department of history temporarily relocated to the 1800 Sherman Avenue Building. School of Communication faculty and staff currently in that building will return to the newly renovated Annie May Swift building this summer.
Topics: University News