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Construction Begins on Historic Harris Hall

Construction to modernize the 93-year-old building began in February and will continue until Fall 2010.

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February 12, 2009
Video by Matt Paolelli

Click here to view a photo gallery of the construction project.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The first phase of construction has started on a comprehensive renovation of Harris Hall, the Evanston campus building that has been home to the department of history and others.

The 93-year-old structure at the south end of the campus will be remodeled and modernized from top to bottom and will include features that are expected to earn a LEED certification.

Construction work on the 25,000-square-foot building is expected to take 18 months.

History faculty have moved to temporary quarters in the 1800 Sherman Avenue building. The International Program Development office will move there in the spring after a brief stay at the 1801 Maple Avenue building. Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences technical services staff have moved from the basement of Harris to Weinberg's 1922 Sheridan Road building.

During the renovation, Owen L. Coon Forum in Leverone Hall will serve as an alternative classroom for large enrollment classes that were held in Harris 107.

The renovation will address needs outlined by the department of history and registrar's office for updated classrooms, more faculty offices, faculty lounge, staff offices, lounge and study space for graduate students, space for emeritus faculty and the new Center for Historical Studies. Newly configured university classrooms with capacities designed to current and projected needs will be brought up to current University standards.

A basement addition to the south side of Harris will accommodate a history seminar room and the Center for Historical Studies. The addition will form the foundation for a terrace that will extend across the entire south side of Harris and will be accessible from Harris 108, a large room that has been used for meetings.

New mechanical and life safety systems will include a new heating/ventilating/air conditioning system and new electrical, plumbing, sprinkler and fire alarm systems. The two internal stairs will be enclosed and fire rated, and the stairs at the south end, which extend to the second floor, will be reconfigured to be continuous from the basement to the third floor.

The three-story building will be fully accessible with a new elevator to all floors and a reconfigured accessible ramp at the heavily used north entry to the building.

The west side building entrance exterior will be removed so that underground mechanical systems can be installed. A new entrance plaza and stairs will then be installed. The east side entrance to the basement will be improved and reconfigured, improving access to new classrooms.

The Harris Hall project has received approval from the City of Evanston Historic Preservation Committee. The structure is designated a landmark building by the City of Evanston.

Harris Hall was named for Norman Wait Harris (1846-1916), a prominent Chicago banker, philanthropist, trustee and benefactor. It was constructed in 1915 to house history, political science and economics and included a seminar room, classrooms, offices, a social hall and 300-seat auditorium. The limestone NeoClassical building features Ionic columns and decorative applied pilasters at the top story.

The building has never undergone a comprehensive building-wide renovation. Work has been done on an as needed basis and includes office and interior build-out, fire alarm, exterior masonry restoration work, and limited interior restoration.

The building was designed by Charles Coolidge, a principal of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the architectural firm responsible for the Chicago Public Library (now known as the Chicago Cultural Center) and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Facilities Management construction manager for the project is 
John Brzezinski, senior project manager. Weese Langley Weese is the architectural firm. The engineer firm for the project is Primera Engineers, Ltd.

Topics: University