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Construction work continues at Oxford College

Construction crews broke ground on the new library and academic commons over the summer at Oxford College. The $10.2 million Hoke O'Kelley Memorial Library and academic commons renovation and expansion is expected to be completed in May. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Construction crews broke ground on the new library and academic commons over the summer at Oxford College. The $10.2 million Hoke O'Kelley Memorial Library and academic commons renovation and expansion is expected to be completed in May. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

OXFORD -- The traditional Oxford College campus that had largely remained untouched until a few years ago when several construction projects were planned to start up continues to change and grow this year.

Several projects are finishing up this year as the college implements its five-year building and improvement plans, and more there will be more to come.

"We treasure Oxford's sense of history as embodied in its historic buildings," said Oxford College Dean Stephen Bowen. "They bespeak a gravitas, a deep commitment to purpose, that could not be demonstrated any other way."

After a $28.5 million new residence hall was erected in 2008, this year included the work on projects such as the $900,000 quadrangle conversion, the nearly $900,000 Williams Hall/Old Gym renovation and the $1.2 million Seney Hall renovation.

The Oxford quad is now a pedestrians-only zone, with no vehicles other than emergency vehicles being allowed beyond the Hamill Street gates. Bricking of the central footpaths, which was partially completed in 2008, was finished earlier this fall, further enhancing the Oxford green and historic landscape.

Williams Hall, also known as Old Gym that was built in 1907, underwent structural work during the spring and summer, and upon routine inspection last fall, engineers found that the historic suspended wooden running track -- one of only a few left in the nation -- had compromised the building's original wooden trusses. The trusses have been reinforced and a more historically aesthetic roof installed.

Crews began construction at Seney Hall, which was built in 1881, in summer 2011 and finished up this month. All of the windows and the front-entrance doors were removed, restored and refurbished. The building's roof was replaced with a slate roof in keeping with the building's original design, water-damaged soffit and fascia were replaced and improvements were made to the guttering and water-runoff systems. The red-brick exterior also got a rejuvenation after becoming pitted and discolored over the decades.

Ongoing work continues for the $3.3 million Language Hall renovation, which is expected to finish up in January, and the $10.2 million Hoke O'Kelley Memorial Library and academic commons renovation and expansion, which is expected to be completed in May.

At Language Hall, which was built in 1874, the interior walls were demolished so the building could be restored to a floor plan of two classrooms on each of the first and second floors. A wooden staircase leading to a second-floor landing will be of the period, although a significant upgrade to the original structure. The exterior finishes include details that are reminiscent of the original design. An addition to the building will bring it to accessibility standards and provide six faculty offices when the building is finished next month.

Ground was broken on the new library and academic commons in May, immediately following the 2012 commencement ceremonies. Following interior demolition, the original 1970 building is being re-purposed for the new facility, and 10,000 square feet will be added to the footprint. The interior will be brought up to 21st-century standards from the standpoint of both design and technology. The exterior will more closely address the Oxford quad, and its design will be more in keeping with the historic buildings adjacent to it.

A web camera has been installed on the site, allowing anyone interested to view the ongoing work in real time at www.oxford.emory.edu/webcam.

"We are preserving that presence in our commitment to the restoration of our 19th century structures," Bowen said. "Together with the conversion of the quad to a pedestrian zone and the construction of our new library, we are approaching a level of usability and aesthetics consistent with the quality of our academic programs."

The college also has a need for a new science building, which could cost $30 million, to accompany changing technologies in the field and support the growing number of students entering the college to study science. The college hasn't yet announced when that project could begin; it is expected to be funded by Emory University funding and donations made to the college. The current science building, Pierce Hall, was built in 1961.