October 2, 2020

As we’re starting to head into colder, potentially snowier months, an important part of the renewal project is making sure the exterior of Swartz Hall is weatherized and ready to withstand a New England winter. This process allows the crews to continue working on the project while the temperatures and snowflakes fall outside.

Ensuring the roof is in good standing is an important part of this work. At over 100 years old, Swartz Hall has many unique features. One of those is the building’s slate roof.

While architecturally interesting and distinct from most of the other roofs on Harvard’s campus, the original slate roof in recent years had served its purposed and, as some staff, faculty, and alumni may recall, led to the need for strategically placed buckets to collect the occasional leaking rain water.

The renovation currently taking place on the building will eliminate the need for those buckets—at least for collecting interior rain water.

Crews have spent many weeks over the summer and into the fall removing and replacing the roof with new slate. But the process to replace the roof started long before that.

Samples of the century-old slate was pulled off from the roof months ago and taken up to Vermont where we worked with an architectural roofing company to get the closest match as possible to what the slate originally looked like when Swartz Hall was first built. Once identified, the slate was then quarried from Vermont and eventually shipped in tiles to the HDS campus.

You can see in the photos included below the crews working in recent weeks to remove the old slate and install the new slate.

The significant and character-defining details of Swartz Hall have been important for the project team to preserve. We are restoring a lot of the building to its original historical character while being mindful of inclusivity to improve student life. This renewal effort, from the roof to the basement and everything in between, will preserve HDS’s central building for generations of scholars to come.

Site work. Concrete placement and utility work is ongoing, including excavating the site for lighting, power, data, and gas. Rafter reinforcement work continues in the old stack wing. Rough carpentry and plastering is ongoing. Mechanical, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing work and fire protection installation continues throughout the building. All activities are subject to change based on weather or other circumstances.

—Ralph

Workers on roof of Swartz HallArial view of Swartz HallWorker next to Swartz Hall roofClose up of Swartz Roof