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Preservation Honors for Harris Hall

Harris Hall wins city's highest building preservation honor, Evans Scholars House also cited

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May 18, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold
The jurors who selected the Evanston Preservation and Design winners called Harris Hall "a project to be celebrated for both its preservation of the original design and the quality of design of its expansion." Photo by Stephen Anzaldi

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The City of Evanston this week awarded its highest building preservation honor -- the Margery B. Perkins Award -- to Northwestern University for its renovation and expansion of Harris Hall, the now 36,859-square foot neoclassical building at 1881 Sheridan Road. 

In addition, the renovation of the Evans Scholars House, at 721 University Place, was recognized at the May 16 award ceremony at Evanston’s Morton Civic Center.

Built in 1915 and designated a landmark in the 1980s, Harris Hall re-opened this winter after less than two years of construction work that carefully restored, refurbished and added to the building that is home to the history department and the Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies.

“It was a dream job for a preservation architect,” said Carlos Ruiz, City of Evanston preservation coordinator. John Brzezinski -- who lovingly oversaw the Harris building project and even created a blog about its progress at harrishall.blogspot.com -- concurs.

“This was my favorite project in 26 years at the University,” said the senior project manager in Facilities Management. “I’ve worked on many challenging projects here, but this one incorporated everything -- new construction, below grade construction and renovation.” Brzezinksi was the liaison between the University, architects Weese Langley Weese and Turner Construction.

The independent architect jurors who selected the 2011 Evanston Preservation and Design Award winners called Harris Hall “a project to be celebrated for both its preservation of the original design and the quality of design of its expansion.”

Before the renovation, Harris Hall’s lower level “was a dark, miserable dungeon-like space,” said Brzezinksi. By saving and then milling and reusing the oak trim and door casings, the lower level was transformed to make it “almost as important in feel” as the main floor. The building soon will receive Gold LEED certification for attention to energy efficiency and sustainability.

An underground mechanical room housing all the heating, air conditioning and electrical was created to maintain the integrity of the limestone building and its roofline. The building addition itself is so consistent with the older building that “looking at it you’d never know that it was added 96 years later,” Brzezinski said.

The University, in partnership with the Western Golf Association (WGA)/Evans Scholars Foundation, also received a “sensitive addition” award for a three-story addition and renovation to the Evans Scholars House. Panto-Ulema Inc. were architects and Bulley and Andrews were contractors on the historic south quadrangle building.

The Chick Evans Scholarship Program was established by Charles “Chick” Evans Jr., a student at Northwestern in the early 1900s who was forced to leave because of financial difficulties. As a renowned golfer, Evans established a national scholarship program for deserving caddies that today is administered by the WGA on 19 college campuses.

Designed by noted academic architect James Gamble Rogers, the original Evans Scholars House was completed in 1928. The recent modifications to the house for Evans Scholars include an addition to the north facade and a complete interior renovation. In recognizing the project, the award jurors pointed to the addition’s careful massing and detailing and to the sensitivity shown to the original building’s architecture.

As part of the project, portions of the historic north facade’s limestone elements were removed and restored, including the window surrounds, the grand arches and intricate limestone carvings. “These components were then integrated into the addition’s design and installed in the new facade,” said Northwestern’s Andrew McGonigle, Facilities Management associate project manager.

The Western Golf Association said the project rebinds the Evans Scholars Foundation’s founding chapter with Northwestern University and is a reminder of the foundation’s spirit of excellence and commitment to community. “The Evans Scholars story began (at Northwestern) 80 years ago,” said WGA Vice President of Education Jeff Harrison at the dedication ceremony last year, and “celebrates…a new home that prepares us for the next 80 years and beyond.”

The Evans Scholars House was designed as “a tucked-away gem,” says Northwestern’s McGonigle. “It remains a rewarding treasure for those who seek it out.”

Topics: University News