May 14, 2021

There are two new features of the renewed Swartz Hall that you’ll no doubt notice when you arrive back on campus, and I want to share the interesting way in which they came to be.

Two new gas fireplaces constructed for our campus as part of this project will no doubt be popular gathering spots. The first (pictured below) is located in the new Commons area on the ground floor of the addition. The dual-sided fireplace will be viewable from the new entrance to Swartz Hall and from the dining area.

Swartz Hall interior fireplace

Swartz Hall interior fireplace floor to ceiling image

The stonework that surrounds the fireplace and reaches to the ceiling may look familiar and it comes from a very special place—Swartz Hall. In order to create new entryways between the addition and the existing Swartz Hall structure, pieces of granite stone had to be removed. Instead of considering the stone waste, it was decided to repurpose the stone and use it to create the structure for the new fireplace.

To achieve this, crews performed careful work in order to salvage the granite stones. Once steel was erected in place to support the new entryways, masons selectively removed the full pieces of stone one by one. The masons basically did what the original masons did to construct the building in 1911, only in reverse. The challenge in this work was handling the solid blocks carefully in a way that maintained their integrity so that the original outside edges could be used as a veneer for the fireplace.

The six-inch thick stones were then sent to a mill where they were cut down in order to maximize the amount of material the masons had to work with when creating the fireplace structure. The once six-inch thick stones put in place to create Swartz Hall in 1911 gave life to two-inch thick stones that now serve as the veneer for the fireplace.

The second fireplace (pictured below) is located just outside the new entrance to the addition. The granite stones that surround this fireplace are new and come from Deer Isle in Maine. The intent in this area where the fireplace is located is not to replicate the 1911 condition of the building, but instead to create an aesthetic that is a bit more modern. The exterior fireplace will complement the building’s original features, while also reflecting the more modern addition.

Swartz Hall exterior fireplace

I can’t wait to see members of our community gathered around these fireplaces discussing their next research or work project, cozying up with some tea, and having many meaningful conversations and interactions.

Site work. Fencing removal around the east lawn continues and hydroseeding will take place. Irrigation work and new planting installation continues on the west lawn. Millwork in the Sperry Room is ongoing. Interior finish work continues, including door installation and hardwood refinishing in the Chapel. Rough carpentry, masonry, and finishing work continues in the stack wing. Paving of the west sidewalks and Francis Avenue parking lot will occur next week. All activities are subject to change based on weather or other circumstances.

—Ralph