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Rewriting History: New and Improved Harris Hall

Comprehensive renovation features redesigned interior spaces, classrooms, offices

March 14, 2011 | by Matt Paolelli
Video produced by Matt Paolelli
After closing for a two-year makeover, one of Northwestern University's most iconic buildings is finally ready for its close-up.

Harris Hall reopened in time for Winter Quarter classes with a completely renovated interior that makes most areas of the building completely unrecognizable from their previous state.

Home to the history department and several others, Harris Hall is now LEED-certified with modern features and improvements that make the 96-year-old building more environmentally friendly and more pleasant for its inhabitants.

The renovated lower level features improved office and classroom spaces, including Harris L08 – a slightly smaller version of the ground floor’s expansive Harris 107 lecture hall. A new entrance on the east corner of the building provides direct access to the reconfigured lower level. Construction also extended this level to the south, creating room for graduate student study space, emeritus faculty office space, a faculty lounge and the headquarters for the new Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies.

This addition forms the foundation for a ground-level outdoor terrace that extends across the entire south side of Harris and is accessible from Harris 108, a stately room on the ground floor that is frequently used for meetings and special events.

The three-story building boasts improved access on every floor with the installation of an elevator and the reconfiguration of the south staircase, which is now continuous from the lower level to the third floor. Improvements were also made to the accessibility ramp at the building’s heavily used north entrance.

The Harris Hall project received approval from the City of Evanston Historic Preservation Committee, and the structure is designated as 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. The limestone neo-classical building 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 building was originally 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 renovation project was John Brzezinski, senior project manager. Weese Langley Weese was the architectural firm.

Topics: University News