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Gasson Hall: Back in Style

After months of renovation, BC's most iconic building looks better than ever

Boston College's signature building, Gasson Tower, has been returned to pristine form for Boston College’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2012-13. (Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert)

By Reid Oslin | Chronicle Staff

Published: Sept. 8, 2011

“Stunning” and “spectacular” are the words that most people are using to describe the newly completed renovation of the University’s most iconic building, Gasson Hall, says Executive Vice President Patrick Keating.

“The building is approaching 100 years old and looks new,” Keating said of the multi-year exterior and interior renovation project that was completed in August. “The whole team did a fabulous job restoring this building to its original character and they accomplished the task literally to the day called for in the schedule.”

“I think that ‘stunning’ captures it quite nicely,” adds Associate Vice President for Capital Projects Mary Nardone, who helped to oversee the complex project that has restored the signature Collegiate Gothic-style building and bell tower to pristine form for Boston College’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2012-13 and provides modern and spacious classroom, study and administrative facilities for the current academic year and well beyond.

In addition to a complete replacement of all of Gasson’s exterior pre-cast stone, the building got new weather-tight windows, stairways and entrance porticos and improved handicap access ramps. “The new windows really make a difference to the exterior appearance,” Nardone says, “and are more in keeping with the original building design.”
Inside Gasson, classrooms, offices, study and conference areas and restrooms were spruced up, renovated and refurnished.

The large function room on the building’s first level – Gasson 100, also known as “The Irish Room” – received a similar facelift, including a new heating and air conditioning system, reconditioned floors, a new coat of paint that captures the historic character of the space, and specialty lighting to illuminate the room’s centerpiece stained-glass window of St. Patrick, patron saint of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Nardone offered praise to the principal contractors, Shawmut Design and Construction and Grande Masonry, who finished the project on time for the start of the fall semester.

“The day that they projected for setting the last piece of stone was exactly the day that they placed it, in spite of a very tough winter” she says. “Their workmanship was excellent. The restoration architect, McGinley Kalsow & Associates, held the bar very high throughout the project and they met the challenge every time. It was done on an aggressive schedule with a lot of interlocking parts.”

Nardone said that working on such an old and venerable building proved to be a special challenge for construction crews. “There were a lot of things that we discovered about the building as the work went along. When Gasson was first built [it opened in 1912], work was shut down periodically – so they could do more fund-raising, I guess,” she laughs. “So, whatever the workers might discover behind one façade would not necessarily be the same thing when you went around the corner.

“They constantly had to move and react to what they found to be different in many locations.”

Nardone says the most difficult part of the project was rebuilding the portico on Gasson’s east side, which faces O’Neill Library. “We anticipated that it would be challenging, but it had surprises beyond even that. The setting of the new pre-cast portico dome, which came in one piece, was critical. It weighs nine tons and took days to set in properly.”
Nardone provided updates on other major campus construction projects:

•Stokes Hall — the 186,000 square foot academic building being constructed on Middle Campus — “is taking shape,” she says. “The big push now is to get the structure weather-tight by the end of the calendar year. That is an important milestone for us before we can go inside and start to do finish work. They have to get that roof on and get it sealed.”

Nardone said the first pieces of exterior stone have been placed on the side of the Stokes structure nearest Lyons Hall.

“In the next couple of weeks, we will be moving onto the west side of the south wing – the College Road side – so people will be able to see the exterior stone going on. A lot of energy is being put into the color blend of the stone as it goes onto the wall. There’s a lot of stone – 55,000 square feet of it.”

Work on Stokes Hall is scheduled to finish in the fall of 2012 and classes will be held there starting with the spring semester of 2013.

•Repair work and structural bracing has been completed on the ramp bridges leading to the top level of the Commonwealth Garage, said Nardone. The ramp to the top of the parking facility was opened in time for last Saturday’s BC-Northwestern football game.

•The renovation of Bishop Peterson Hall on the Brighton Campus is expected to be complete later this month and current plans call for the transfer of employees from the Financial Vice President and Human Resources division into the new facility starting in late October.

The new Peterson Hall building will also include a dining facility for the Brighton Campus.

•Reconstruction of the former Archdiocesan Chancery building is scheduled to conclude in February, according to Nardone, when personnel from the University Advancement division will move into the building.

For a slide show of the new images of Gasson, click here.