After more than three years of construction, College Hall – Montclair State’s iconic, original home – reopened this fall after a loving and thorough renovation, expansion and modernization.
The Mission Revival building not only housed the entire school when it opened in 1908, but it also established a lasting identity for the institution – one that President Susan A. Cole has revived and carried forward as the University itself has expanded in recent decades.
“The old College Hall was worn and tired, now it’s bright and flowing with a renewed energy,” says Sharon Mahoney, director, Construction Management, Capital Planning and Project Management.
The building hosts Red Hawk Central, the University’s one-stop student services center for all current and prospective students and alumni.
Within the 5,000-square-foot addition, the lower level houses the new utility infrastructure that contains critical services such as steam, chilled water and electrical distribution systems, and an IT vault containing telecommunications equipment and the network operations center for the campus. Several administrative offices have returned, including the offices of the President, Provost, Dean of Students, Student Development and Campus Life, University College, Educational Opportunity Fund and the Disability Resource Center. Panera Bread – now open for limited service – is scheduled for a grand opening in January 2021.
“We tried to bring the historical integrity of the building back by restoration of elements and finishes which we found in historic photos and documents,” says Mahoney, who pointed to uncovered brick walls, restored western hemlock wood finishes, tin ceilings, lighting fixtures and even the antique 200-year-old mission bell in the tower.
Other touches are completely modern: bathrooms are new and relocated to the central core of the building. Fairy lights float on poles above sapling trees and overhead along the sidewalk and landscaping on the north entrance.
Meanwhile, 125 window air conditioner units were removed and the windows were replaced, opening up exterior views that had been obscured for decades. Warrens of rooms have been removed and replaced with open-concept spaces – a process made difficult by the building’s thick masonry walls.
“There was a lot of structural work and temporary shoring involved to remove the existing load-bearing walls – but seeing the resulting open office areas, it was well worth the effort,” says Mahoney.