Chapel renovations press on
For nearly a year now, the eastern edge of the Quad has been dominated by caution tape and construction equipment. What began as precautionary maintenance has become a complete rebuilding project.
"Constantly we're looking around to see the condition of the buildings," says acting Director of Facilities Management David D'Angelo, "we try to catch problems before they become serious."
D'Angelo outlined a four-step process that the College follows in construction projects on campus; beginning with "conceptual design"--the administration seeks to understand the situation and its challenges to formulate a goal. This is followed by "schematic design"--the creation of a logical means of achieving the stated ends. The "development process" is outlined next, and is followed by a continual refinement process that seeks to acquire accurate budget statements and cost expectations. D'Angelo placed the current project in the refinement stage, currently completing a preventative measure to help the towers weather the winter.
"Stage 1 will be done in October sometime--probably late October--netting will be up with stainless steel bands every ten feet or so," says Shawn Smith, on-site project head from H.P. Cummings Construction. "Then, in March, the netting will be taken down, and the stones will each be numbered, removed, and stored."
What brought this about? Weather-related spalling was beginning to force pieces from the outer granite wall to protrude from the towers and even caused several to fall altogether. The science behind the problem is simple--moisture seeps through cracks in the mortar holding the carved stones together and expands with the freezing temperatures in the winter, forcing the blocks from out of their positions.
The towers are twelve feet on a side with three-foot-thick walls. Only the outer foot of carved granite stone will be removed, leaving the interior two feet intact. H.P. Cummings is responsible for the initial scaffolding construction and preventative measures for the coming winter. The firm, founded in 1879, is responsible for many other recent renovations on campus, including the Moulton Union terrace repairs last summer, as well as the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, Searles Science Building, and Walker Art Building dome renovations. The firm was also involved in the construction of Wish Theater and has done work on college campuses throughout the East, including Middlebury College. The College is reviewing several proposals for the second stage, including two separate plans from H.P. Cummings involving two different masonry partners.
The second stage will begin in March and involves the stone removal and rebuilding for the North Tower. Work will begin on the South Tower the following March. D'Angelo realizes that this can't necessarily be a strict timetable, when budget concerns and schedules are still up in the air to some extent.
The Chapel has been a part of Bowdoin's campus for most of the College's existence. Built in the 1850s under the supervision of architect Richard Upjohn and opened in 1855, it has long been an impressive monument to Bowdoin's strong sense of tradition.
Bowdoin College President Barry Mills noted that, "The
chapel is an incredibly important building on the Bowdoin campus and in
the state. When you are the keeper of a historic building, it is your
responsibility to maintain it. We look forward to returning the chapel
to its former splendor."
Now, after a century and a half, the renovations are seeking to preserve that tradition for future Bowdoin students through a completely new beginning for the towers.
"Hopefully, when we're done, this will last another 150 years," says Smith.