Diamond in the Rough Polished into
Oregon State University's Weatherford
Hall to Take on New Life as Residential College
An $18 million
renovation to Oregon State University's Weatherford
Hall is bringing the aging former men's dormitory back
An $18 million renovation will help Oregon State University's
venerable Weatherford Hall regain its status as a historic
treasure and also turn it into the Corvallis institution's
first residential college.
Weatherford Hall was built in 1928 as a men''s dormitory.
However, OSU officials closed it in 1994 because of the building's
aged infrastructure. By the time students return for class
this fall, the 100,000-sq.-ft. structure will feature updated
residential space and will house the new Austin Entrepreneurship
Program, classrooms, a cyber cafe and suites for visiting
lecturers and entrepreneurs.
The Austin Entrepreneurship Program, administered by OSU's
College of Business, fosters new business ventures developed
by students. A $4-million gift from alumnus Ken Austin and
his wife, Joan, makes OSU one of the first universities to
establish a residential learning program with this focus.
"We have a building that turned 75 last year that is
a real treasure for our campus and for our state, in my opinion,"
said Tom Scheuermann, OSU''s director of University Housing
and Dining. "It's going to be a spectacular building
for the 295 students and the faculty who live there, but we
also see it as a catalyst for the campus where there will
be a lot of activity for students, faculty and visiting entrepreneurs."
SERA Architects Inc. of Portland launched its design plan
for Weatherford Hall in 1997 by touring institutions such
as Yale University and the University of Virginia that have
several residential colleges. The research helped define how
to ensure successful functionality when residential and academic
uses are combined in a single structure, said Natasha Koiv,
the firm''s project manager.
Security is a key design issue because there are numerous
doors throughout the structure, and access to academic space
will be more open than access to residential space. Elm trees
that had grown to block the building's entry path were removed
so there is a clear view of Weatherford Hall.
A dining hall that was attached to the back of the structure
during the 1950s was removed and will be replaced by an outdoor
amphitheater. Windows that were broken were replaced with
replicas that had to be specially manufactured because of
their unique sizes, Koiv said.
Howard S. Wright Construction Co. of Portland started its
work in June, gutting most of the interior plaster to make
way for the new classrooms and 24-hour cyber cafe. In addition,
the renovation calls for upgrades to the structural, plumbing
and electrical systems.
Weatherford Hall was built with unreinforced concrete with
a brick veneer exterior, so seismic support has played a large
role in the renovation. The hall initially was constructed
as five separate buildings under one roof, with concrete walls
dividing it into sections that each had their own lounges
and sleeping porches. Its unique W shape features anywhere
from three to six floors in various areas of the structure.
Weatherford Hall was constructed in just six months as the
Depression loomed. The quick turnaround and shrinking supply
of building materials are apparent in various areas of the
building, such as a spot where lumber used to form concrete
was reused to construct the roof, said Dan Pelissier, senior
project manager for Howard S. Wright Construction.
"We talk about green building but they were just as
efficient with their resources, although for different reasons,"
he said. "It's kind of fun to see the history and how
things were done at the time.
"A special interest of this job is the historic nature
of it and the beauty that it once had. It was kind of a diamond
in the rough, and what intrigued us about the project was
the chance to restore it to its former glory. You look around
our office and out of 30 people, I know of at least three
who used to live there."
Of course, with any historic project there must be an accompanying
set of ghost stories and myths. Thus far, however, construction
crews have yet to encounter Og, a rock that allegedly lives
in Weatherford Hall and has traveled the world with generations
of students over the years. Nor has anyone met up with a large
python that is supposed to live in the building, Pelissier
"We haven't seen the snake yet, so if he lives in there
he's hiding well," Pelissier added.
Owner: Oregon State University,
General Contractor: Howard
S. Wright Construction Co., Portland, Ore.
Architect: SERA Architects,
Structural Engineer: KPFF
Consulting Engineers, Portland, Ore.
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