With the core of the Kingston campus now recognized on the National Historic Registry, students and staff wonder how the University of Rhode Island plans to maintain the historic value of these buildings while still keeping them safe, accessible and modern.

Photo by |CIGAR|

Many students value the historical roots of the campus, and wish the University would do more to upkeep them.

“It’s disappointing to me that we get attention placed only on the higher tech buildings, and these (historic) buildings which are such a part of our campus culture from the very beginning, are left on the wayside,” said sophomore Aria Mia Loberti.

Loberti, a triple major in communications, philosophy and political science, also noted that “the buildings that are in shambles are usually the ones that house the humanities.” She believes that if there was a greater respect towards humanity programs then the University would be more inclined to help improve the structure of the historic buildings.

Seth Ulricksen, a sophomore, thinks that there is room for improvement in the University’s historic buildings and that these improvements are not out of reach.

“Some of them are certainly better than others,” said Ulricksen. “They just need kind of a face-lift, an update. They’re kind of old and run-down. Add a fresh coat of paint on the wall, new carpet new floors update the classrooms a little bit.”

Luckily, the University has plans to renovate these buildings over the next decade.

According to Ryan Carrillo, assistant director of campus planning and design, the first phase of the project includes renovating the interiors of East Hall, Washburn Hall and the second floor of Ranger Hall. The second phase will include renovations of Quinn Hall, Roosevelt Hall and Davis Hall. Carrillo says that the plan is to work on these by the mid 2020s.

“Lippitt is a great example of a building that has been brought up to contemporary standards,” said Christopher “Kip” McMahan, director of campus planning and design. “[Most recently,] Ranger’s first floor is renovated with an elevator and bathrooms, and then the plan is to start doing the next floor up, with general assignment classrooms.” The design process for the second floor of Ranger will begin this July.

One project that is already in the works is the expansion of Bliss Hall in the form of a new engineering building.

“Bliss is a good example of one of the buildings on the historic quad that is currently going through design for the second phase of the College of Engineering,” said McMahan. “It is a $25 million project and it includes over 50,000 square feet of existing building, and an addition of over 15,000 square feet that will be completely rehab the existing building.”

The University also plans to address various common concerns from staff and students about these buildings. When asked about the appearances of mold last semester in the basement of Davis Hall, Carrillo assured that the University is working to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

“There’s two things that we’re doing to help,” Carrillo said. “We’re designing a replacement for the roof that will help to seal the interior spaces from any water infiltration. We also have a project to redo the mechanical systems on the lower level, which was a source of humidity in the past.”

Professor Valerie Karno, director of the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, is one of many people concerned about the state of historic buildings. Karno’s office is located in Rodman Hall, which has been experiencing deterioration and mice issues.

“We’ve been dealing with mice for quite some time, and the problem is particularly bad this winter season,” said Karno.

However, Karno explained that the University is working on dealing with these problems.

“Rodman Hall needs some attention. Facilities is aware of that. We’ve had meetings with Facilities about the problems at Rodman, the plumbing particularly and also the mice,” said Karno. “Currently, Facilities is now very proactively working towards getting rid of the mice. They work with a pest control company. They developed a plan. They are changing the mice traps that are already there and they’re sealing the building on the outside where they think the mice are getting in.”

Carrillo assured that Rodman will be taken care of soon. “Rodman also has a project that is being designed right now for an exterior rehab to seal the envelope,” said Carrillo. “The first phase we’re envisioning for this summer would be masonry and windows. The second phase in the following summer would be the roof and the skylights.”

Accessibility is also an issue of concern, according to McMahan.

“One of the biggest challenges in historic restoration relative to contemporary codes accessibility because so many of these buildings have stair access entries, so it makes accessibility a big challenge,” said McMahan. “Bliss Hall is a great example of where we’ll be able to, through the renovation, create a thoroughly accessible entrance on the north side of the building. We’ll rehabilitate the elevator and we’ll be rebuilding bathrooms so they are accessible. The biggest challenge in these buildings is just basic entry to the building.”

Air conditioning is another consideration in renovations.

“As we go through and renovate, centralized air condition really improves the classroom environment,” said Carrillo.

When asked about the challenges of balancing the historical roots of these buildings while keeping them modern, Carrillo assured that the buildings will maintain their historic looking exterior.

“I don’t think the two are in conflict,” Carrillo said. “The aspect of the historic nature of these [buildings] is the exterior façade, which in all cases will be respected as we go forward. It’s more about the introduction of this technology within it that allows it to be a space that’s really usable for the current student population.”

Mcmahan thinks that overall the historic buildings on campus are well-suited for classroom purposes. “Modernizing is really of finding a way to embed the new systems, mechanical and electrical, into the fabric,” said McMahan.