Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2009 Preservation Award Winners
Wellesley College Alumnae Hall Wellesley
 
Historic New England

Rehabilitation & Restoration

Wellesley College's Alumnae Hall, recently re-dedicated and re-named in honor of the school's former president Diana Chapman Walsh, was constructed in 1922, and was designed by the notable Boston architectural firm Cram and Ferguson. The Jacobean-style building has a limestone and brick exterior and a vaulted interior with a 1,000-seat main stage theater and several program and gathering spaces. Alumnae Hall has always played an important role as the College's main venue for performances and ceremonial events. Over time, however, the building's interior had seen many changes in finishes and the loss of original architectural details. Poor acoustics and limited sightlines, minimal lobby and rehearsal spaces, and severely limited accessibility meant that the hall did not meet the needs of contemporary performance, teaching, or gathering.

The LEED Gold restoration and rehabilitation project began with extensive research to ensure the preservation of Alumnae Hall's historic integrity. The building now has a restored slate and copper gambrel roof, and exterior brick and limestone masonry has been cleaned, repaired, and repointed. To create a theater lobby while providing universal access, the arcaded exterior portico at the main entry was glazed with high-performance, ultra-clear laminated glass with minimal hardware, and the original bluestone flooring was removed, labeled, and reinstalled at a new level. The former lower-level ballroom was converted into a flexible rehearsal and performance area that can be subdivided into two rooms. Despite its new functions, this space still retains its original wood flooring, marbleized columns, wall paneling, wood doors, and coffered ceiling. In the auditorium, original oculus windows were reopened, lost historic panel paintings were researched and recreated, and the original chandeliers were refurbished. With a repoured concrete floor, new technology and control systems, and improved sight lines, circulation, comfort, and accessibility, the main auditorium has been transformed into a state-of-the-art facility, and the continued central role of the hall as a performance and special event space for the College has been assured.

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