|A view of the Van Wormer Library today|
The move-in to the renovated classical architecture-style building is set for Jan. 30. Dedicated as UC’s first library building in 1899 and opening in the summer of 1901, the Van Wormer building – later converted into a university administration building – will house the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost for Baccalaureate and Graduate Education as well as the Graduate School offices.
|Van Wormer with the original dome|
Inside the building, renovations included cutting a circular opening into the ceiling of the first floor through the second floor, allowing a view into the spectacular dome skylight from every floor of the building. “Because this building was so unique and so exquisitely designed, our goal was to adaptively restore the building – not just to bring it back to its original qualities, but to improve on them,” explains Leonard Thomas, UC project manager for landscape design and construction.
Adding to the complexity of the project was the fact that this building was first designed to be a library, so a site that was created primarily as a storage space for books was later converted into a building to house offices. Enderle says the new work involved tearing out a wall that had been installed over the original stairwell, as well as restoration of that existing marble stairwell. A new interior back stairwell was added, allowing the removal of an unsightly fire escape from the exterior of the building, and an elevator was installed. The ceiling height of third floor was high enough to add a partial fourth floor, opening room for additional office space and a new conference room. That meant adding onto the stairwell and yet blending the new section of the stairwell with the old.
Also blending preservation with progress – all new audio-video equipment was installed in the updated conference rooms, and the entire building now has wireless Internet access. Glass partitions open the upper portions of the walls of all of the offices to allow natural light from the dome into the interior spaces. On every floor, lighting is rimmed around the tops of the windows to add to the night lighting of the dome. Additional mechanical updates include an entirely new HVAC system that was installed on the first floor, with the duct work located underground.
|Van Wormer without a dome|
“Ultimately, the landscape is part of the site and part of its preservation,” Thomas adds. The peripheral trees were protected during the course of construction. Four trees – two to the south of the building and two to the north – are Pagoda trees, the only such trees on campus. “These are symbolically very important trees and are known as ‘Scholar Trees,’” Thomas says. “The tree, which is native to the Orient, is purportedly a source of great inspiration, and it’s believed that ancient philosophers taught their students under its canopy.” Thomas says other landscaping in character with the building’s classical architecture includes Yews and Boxwoods, which were popular landscapes in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The stone tablet that pays tribute to Van Wormer remains in the building, and reads, “Erected with the money given by Asa Van Wormer in memory of his wife, Julie Van Wormer, and himself.” The total cost of the original construction was $60,000. The Van Wormer Library was designed by Cincinnati Architect Samuel Hannaford. University Historian Kevin Grace says Hannaford also designed UC’s original McMicken Hall, St. George’s Church and Cincinnati’s City Hall.
The building’s historical renovation, with its softly lighted new dome, is a shining example of how UC is preserving its rich and reverent history while transforming the campus into a new urban research university for the 21st century.