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Albany Quadrangle—the place for scholars to gather

October 08, 2001

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    The center building was originally a garage with folding shed doors for automobiles, carriages and farm equipment.
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    This historical photograph of Albany Quadrangle shows that the north wing was originally without walls. Vehicles and farm equipment could drive through the building. The lead-clad dovecote sat on top of a tool shed. Photo credit: Thomas Hacker & Associates Architects.
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    Architects plan to restore the ornate dovecote and its towering weather vane, which have become campus icons.
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    The College's master plan depicts the campus in 2003. Albany Quadrangle (bottom right) will sit directly across from John R. Howard Hall (top right). James F. Miller Center for the Humanities (bottom left) and Aubrey R. Watzek Library (top left) are just a few steps from Albany Quadrangle.
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    This historical photograph shows how Albany frames an open courtyard enclosed by a stone wall.

Once it was a garage and a greenhouse, then a chapel and a library, and later an office building and a classroom complex. Since it was built in 1929, Albany Quadrangle has been used and abused. But it will soon become the jewel of the academic north side of the main campus and a place for scholars to gather to commemorate the national bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which will take place from 2003 to 2006.

“We plan to build on the strengths of this romantic utility building, to reveal its hidden qualities and to correct its less careful modifications,” states William Dann, principal, Thomas Hacker & Associates Architects.

Herman Brookman, architect of Frank Manor House and its outbuildings, designed the three-winged complex as a service center for maintaining equipment and propagating plants.

“Brookman took a more domestic attitude toward the use of materials in this service building,” comments Brett Crawford, an associate with Hacker. “Instead of refined brick, the architect used concrete and stucco. Instead of fine wood floors, the floors were concrete. The interior walls were made of rough plaster.”

But Albany Quadrangle has its own memorable features: a wonderful stone wall with two ornamental lanterns, a cupola bell tower with a magnificent clock and an ornate lead-clad dovecote with a massive weather vane. All have become campus icons.

“It’s a sweet little building that’s been abused over the years,” Dann says. “It was part of the original Frank estate, and it’s been part of the College’s history ever since. The College is making a significant investment so that this building is available to future generations.”


A peek at the past


The U-shaped, three-winged building frames an open courtyard enclosed to the west by a low stone wall. Two simple lanterns light the entrance to the courtyard, beyond which Brookman placed a delightful fountain with spouting dolphins.


  • The center building was originally a garage with folding shed doors for automobiles, carriages and farm equipment. A duplex on the upper floor housed the caretakers.


  • The north wing was an open shed—much like a carport. Wagons and other vehicles could drive through the building into the courtyard or garage. At the east end, a service pit made it easier to work under vehicles. At the west end, an elegant dovecote with a huge weather vane sat on top of a tool shed. The tool shed had an open ceiling that exposed an octagonal steel truss structure. Attached to the tool shed was a men’s washroom.


  • The south wing was a hulking greenhouse with a glass roof, a potting room and a cold-storage area to keep cut flowers fresh for Edna Frank, wife of Lloyd Frank, owner of the estate. She would choose the color scheme for the day and the gardener would provide fresh cut-flowers for the arrangements. Two smaller greenhouses stood beside the south wing.


  • The basement housed the boiler, a room for growing mushrooms, and storage rooms for fruits and root vegetables.


“Albany Quadrangle is not only an important part of Fir Acres Estate, it also is a significant piece of the College’s early history,” says Michael Sestric, facilities planner. “It provided the space to allow Lewis & Clark to function as a college in its early years.” Robert Dortignacq, an architect who specializes in historic preservation, identifies two waves of architectural modifications—an initial one in the 1940s, shortly after the College acquired the estate, and another in the 1960s.

In 1942, architects turned the center building into classrooms and a library, added a dumbwaiter for books, removed the shed doors and took out the caretakers’ apartments. The basement housed the physics laboratory. In addition, the architects filled in the walls of the north wing and turned it into a chapel. The tool shed and men’s washroom became classrooms.

In 1944, the architects added an organ loft to the north wing and remodeled the greenhouse into classrooms.

Then, in the 1960s, architect Warren Weber removed the chapel and library and remodeled the building into classrooms and offices. Finally, in 1977, the College removed the original slate-colored ceramic roof tiles and replaced them with red tiles.

According to Dortignacq, the construction of BoDine, built almost on top of Albany, obscured the complex and its courtyard.

“The building needs more breathing space,” he says.

“We want to give the building back its dignity,” Crawford agrees.


Preparing for the bicentennial


The College plans to restore the building and to add a new wing with 8,500 square feet in time for the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

During the bicentennial, the College will use the complex for presentations, lectures, receptions and dinners, according to Holly Bard, who is coordinating the College’s bicentennial activities.

“This will be an opportunity for the College to showcase its faculty, resources and campus,” she says. “We expect to host scholars and visitors from throughout the world.”

“Beyond the bicentennial, the building will have a life that is diverse and strong,” Dann says. “The College will be able to use it for its many symposia, seminars, faculty meetings and board of trustee meetings.”

The design calls for removing the upper floor of the east wing to create one large ceremonial hall with oak floors, wood ceilings, an up-to-date sound system and a nearby kitchenette.

“It will be the most refined, open and special place on campus,” Crawford says.

“In addition, we will remove the partitions in the north wing and will create two simple meeting rooms designed for flexible use,” he says.

Architectural designs prescribe reopening part of the north wing to recapture the original character of the building. Plans also call for re-exposing the octagonal truss structure of the former tool shed and turning it into a café.

“You won’t be able to drive through the building, like you could at one time, but you will be able to walk all the way through it,” Crawford says.

Because of the significant modifications to the south wing, the building is structurally unstable.

“We will rebuild this structure to provide needed space for the College,” Crawford states.

In addition, crews will construct a new building parallel to the south wing. A gallery hall will connect the two wings. Together, the existing south wing and the new building will become the student academic planning center of the campus and will house the Office of the Dean and other offices, such as the Center for Service and Work, the writing center, ethnic student services and overseas programs. The National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial will occupy offices on the first level of the new building.


Preserving campus icons


“We will make sure the clock mechanism works properly, and we will reclaim the grandeur of the dovecote and will take it back to its original condition,” Crawford says.

Crews will carefully remove the entire dovecote and place it on the ground for specialists to work on, he explains. They will remove the ferrous stains, sandblast and repaint the weather vane, and replace the missing pieces. After reroofing the structure, crews will carefully replace the dovecote on top of the roof.

The architects plan to upgrade the entire building to meet current seismic codes and will install new telecommunication, data, heating, electrical and mechanical systems.

Plans also call for rebuilding the courtyard, according to Sestric. “We will build a storm-water collection system, will replace the cobbles with concrete pavers to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will plant the area with beautiful landscaping.”

As a finishing touch, roofers will replace the red tile roof with ceramic slate tiles reminiscent of the original roof.

Contractors will use Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards as guidelines during construction, “but the most environmentally sustainable thing we are doing is saving the existing building,” Dann emphasizes.

“Our near-term goal is to have the building up and running before the beginning of the bicentennial,” Dann says. “We need to complete the building a year before the bicentennial. It will become temporary office space for the social science faculty while the College builds John R. Howard Hall, which will house social science classrooms and offices.”

Construction of Albany Quadrangle will begin in January 2002 and will end the following summer. Construction of Howard Hall will begin in 2003 and will end by 2004, when it, too, will be used for certain bicentennial activities.

When the College finally removes BoDine and the Biology-Psychology building, Albany will sit directly across from Howard Hall. It also will be just a few steps from Aubrey R. Watzek Library, which houses the finest collection in the world of printed material on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

—by Jean Kempe-Ware

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