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Lathrop Hall, built in 1905, undergoes major makeover

By Tim O'Keeffe on February 4, 2013

Buildings develop personalities over time. Lathrop Hall, built in 1905, has a long, rich history and its share of quirks and secrets (some that are now revealed!).

A mainstay of the Academic Quad, the building has undergone a major personality change. Those entering for the first time will be amazed at the renovated classroom and office spaces, flood of natural light from long-hidden windows and skylights, and new spaces that allow for more open collaboration and use of technology.

The renovation of the second, third, and fourth floors started in May 2012 and was largely completed when students returned from winter break January 21.

What they saw was a transformed, wide-open lobby that directly accesses a re-imagined multipurpose classroom that replaced the lecture hall that had blocked off all the back windows.

The new multipurpose room accommodates up to 99 students and provides another campus venue for guest lecturers and film screenings. Its bank of windows can be darkened with a flip of a switch so that foot traffic in the lobby won’t be an issue when class is in session.

To the right of the lobby is the Writing and Speaking Center, formerly in Alumni Hall. The open floor plan of the center’s main room is designed to encourage students to discuss their writing.

Lathrop Hall lobby

The renovated lobby is a much more open, inviting space. The new multipurpose room at right features a bank of windows that can be darkened with a flip of a switch.  Below, the lobby is seen before the renovation. The stairs led to 209 Lathrop, a classroom that blocked off the entire back of the building and its windows.

Old Lathrop lobby

“I’m absolutely thrilled with the new center. It’s beautiful, spacious, and conducive to the work that happens here,” said Jenn Lutman, writing center director.

Lutman is particularly excited about a smaller, private room that students can use to practice oral presentations. Students will have the option of videotaping themselves and reviewing their speech immediately afterward on a computer.

Another new space is the digital media writing classroom, which features a seminar table for class discussion and computer workstations along the perimeter for individual and group projects.

“This new classroom will allow us to incorporate advanced digital technology into our teaching in a fundamental way, rather than holding special sessions at technology-equipped spaces elsewhere,” said Meg Worley, assistant professor of writing and rhetoric.

The department is committed to enriching its classes with new media technologies. Two recently introduced courses — WRIT 222: The Narrative in New Media and WRIT 340: Visual Rhetorics — focus entirely on new media study, contextualized within traditions of narrative and classical and contemporary rhetoric.

In addition to the writing and rhetoric department, the English department and the Division of University Studies moved into the revamped building.

The multipurpose room replaces 209 Lathrop, which was a tiered classroom.

The multipurpose room replaces 209 Lathrop, which was a tiered classroom. (Photo by Andy Daddio

Previously, Lathrop housed the physics and astronomy department as well as the geology department and the Linsley Geology Museum, which all moved to the Ho Science Center in 2007.

Now, at Lathrop, students and faculty members enjoy natural light from once-secreted skylights and dramatic arched windows.

Architectural features such as handcrafted dentil moldings along the fourth floor have been restored, evoking the building’s historic roots. A newer design element involves hallway benches that have seats made from recycled seat belts.

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  • Photo gallery
  • Open house to be held  3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 5

A student lounge that served as a meeting space for English majors was carried over from Lawrence to Lathrop. The room, supported by Jeff Fager ’77, P’06 and his wife, Melinda, has a large discussion table, comfortable chairs, a plasma screen, kitchen area, and balcony.

The $9.5 million renovation was shepherded by Colgate project manager Robert Dwyer, who worked closely with a campus committee and Tai Soo Kim Partners Architects, of Hartford, Conn.

Dwyer said there is a good deal of work that visitors will never see, including spray foam insulation in the attic and installation of new air handling and other mechanical systems.

The building was renovated with LEED certification in mind. That review process is ongoing, with a final determination expected in the coming weeks.

A previous renovation project had transformed Lathrop’s first floor, creating new office and meeting spaces for the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education; Office of Off-Campus Study/International Programs; Upstate Institute; Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships; International Student Services; Office of Sustainability; Dean of the College; and Colgate Speaking Union.

New Lathrop classroom

This classroom on the fourth floor was gutted, revealing long-hidden vaulted ceilings and hand-crafted dentil moldings.  The drop ceiling (below) had hidden the architectural features, which were restored to their original condition.

Old Lathrop classroom

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