STUDENTS WEREN’ T THE ONLY members of the Washington and
Lee community who moved into new digs on campus for Fall Term. At
the end of August, 30 faculty and staff unpacked boxes and settled into
offices in a beautifully renovated Tucker Hall.
The completion of Tucker Hall marked the end of the extensive
restoration and renovation of the entire Colonnade, a project that took
more than 10 years and $50 million. The undertaking was the centerpiece of W&L’s most recent capital campaign.
“It’s a great feeling after many years in the Baker Hall swing space to
come back to the Colonnade — and to come, for the first time, to Tucker
Hall,” said Alex Brown, Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Religion.
“How nice to come to spaces that seem, figuratively speaking, to have
been expecting us.”
Prior to the renovation, the five buildings that make up the National
Historic Landmark — Newcomb, Payne, Washington, Robinson and
Tucker halls — were not up to modern standards for safety and fire
protection, or for contemporary learning and teaching. They had not
been updated since 1936, around the time Tucker Hall was rebuilt after
the original structure burned down.
In addition, decades of structural changes, such as the 1980s insertion
of a mezzanine in the two-story former law library at the rear of Tucker
Hall, had covered up original features. “A lot of our work was just taking
off all the things that had been melted onto the buildings over the years
and restoring them to their simple elegance,” said Tom Kalasky, director
of capital projects.
The restoration involved updating electrical and fire protection
systems, replacing window air conditioning and radiator heat with
modern mechanical systems, adding restrooms to the upper floors,
improving handicapped accessibility, creating more office space, and
upgrading technology — all in a way that was environmentally friendly
After more than 10 years and $50 million, the
restoration and renovation of Washington and
Lee’s hallowed Colonnade is complete.
BY LINDSEY NAIR
PHOTOGRAPHS BY SHELBY MACK
Glavé & Holmes of Richmond served as architects throughout the
project, and Kjellstrom + Lee of Staunton as construction managers.
O’Byrne Contracting Inc., owned by Elizabeth O’Byrne King ’00, did
custom millwork, and many other local craftspeople were also involved.
All of the work aligned with the secretary of the interior’s Standards for
the Treatment of Historic Properties, and historic tax credits yielded
more than $7 million that went back into the project. Every building
submitted for certification through the Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) program achieved a silver rating.
Kalasky said just about every building offered a neat surprise in the
form of a hidden architectural feature or quirky find. The team worked
with Alison Bell ’91, associate professor of anthropology, to assess
potentially important discoveries along the way. Outside Robinson Hall,
Bell and her team uncovered thousands of artifacts from the early 1800s,
including a penknife, medicine vials and pieces of pottery. All are
believed to have come from Graham Hall, a classroom and dormitory
built in 1804 and demolished in 1835.
Ultimately, the Colonnade job took much longer than the original
estimate of five years, in part because Facilities Management had to set
up swing space for faculty and staff to use while buildings were under
construction. In addition, W&L undertook other large capital projects,
including the Ruscio Center for Global Learning, upper-division housing,
Stemmons Plaza and the new natatorium, during the same time frame.
The result of all that hard work on the Colonnade is a perfect marriage
of state-of-the-art, 21st-century functionality and freshly maintained
“To be involved in a project like this, and to work with a project team
of that caliber, was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity, so it has been very
fulfilling,” Kalasky said.
To view a slideshow of the Colonnade restoration with more project
highlights, see go.wlu.edu/colonnade-slideshow.