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Dartmouth Trustees Select Dorm Site; Outside Manager Sought for Country Club

  • The east side of campus and College Park is seen from the Baker Tower on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Phil Hanlon, the college's president, is considering an expansion of the school's undergraduate population. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Charles Hatcher

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2018 9:59:03 AM
Modified: 9/18/2018 12:13:42 AM

Hanover — Dartmouth College plans to build a new 350-bed residence hall at the intersection of Crosby and East Wheelock street to provide undergraduate housing while existing residence halls are renovated.

The college also is seeking a manager for the beleaguered Hanover Country Club, plans to pay $400,000 for a study needed to upgrade the historic Dartmouth Hall, and is launching efforts to construct additional graduate housing, the board of trustees announced on Sunday after three days of meetings last week.

The new undergraduate facility will be built atop what is now the Topliff Tennis Courts and House Center A, which is commonly referred to by students as “the onion” because of its shape.

The site is one of three proposed residence hall locations that the college announced during public forums last month. The other possibilities were a small parking lot and the Dragon secret society building near College Park, and the former site of Gilman Hall, on the west side of College Street.

“The Crosby site has better proximity to student dining and services than the Gilman site, and community feedback was that the North College site was less desirable for this use,” Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an email on Monday.

The other sites might be considered for other developments, she said.

The college has about 3,100 undergraduate beds on campus, which it says is too few to house students who might be displaced by renovations elsewhere.

Dartmouth last built new dorms in 2006, when 502 beds were added. It has since improved two residence halls, but nearly half of the school’s housing stock hasn’t been upgraded in the last 15 years.

During their meetings from Thursday through Saturday, the trustees “agreed to move forward with schematic design and evaluation work” for the site, according to a college news release.

The proposal would be required to obtain a special exception from the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and then go before the Planning Board for review, said Rob Houseman, director of town’s Department of Planning, Zoning and Codes.

Of the three sites in consideration, Dartmouth’s choice to build on the tennis courts made the most sense, Houseman said on Monday. The area already is well used by pedestrians, and the new residence hall would be closer to dining and college services, he said.

Cyndy Bittinger, president of the Hanover Historical Society, said the open space that the tennis courts provide will be missed.

“Historically, you want a strong downtown and you don’t want too much traffic in one place,” said Bittinger, who attended one of the college’s August forums. “It’s nice to have that open view when you walk around campus.”

The tennis courts are no longer used by the college’s varsity teams, according to Dartmouth athletic department spokesman Rick Bender. And the nearby student center wasn’t planned to be a permanent part of the campus.

The small building was designed with a seven- to 12-year lifespan in mind, and was one of two constructed as part of Dartmouth’s recently implemented house system. It provides space for students to study and socialize, according to student newspaper The Dartmouth.

In other housing news, the trustees announced plans to “identify and select a development firm to work on a planned graduate-housing project” that would provide 250 beds or more.

A site for the future development hasn’t been selected yet, Lawrence said on Monday. Houseman, the Hanover planner, said the proposal hasn’t been discussed with his office.

Country Club

The trustees also directed the college to explore the “possibility of partnering with an external management consortium and entering into a long-term lease for the operation of the Hanover Country Club,” which is owned and operated by the college and is home to the college’s golf course.

Dartmouth has been weighing the future of its 18-hole golf course for the last four years. During that time, the country club has seen an annual deficit of $600,000 and cost the college $1.1 million in necessary maintenance.

It was with those costs in mind that the college charged a 12-member committee early this year with exploring whether Hanover Country Club should be shuttered or reconfigured. The group came back in May and strongly recommended keeping the institution open.

To do that, the committee suggested building a new clubhouse capable of hosting weddings, receptions and other events. It also recommended forming a nonprofit or other board that could manage the club separately from the college.

“Certainly one of our clear findings was that some entity with expertise in running both golf courses and hospitality facilities — assuming there’s a new clubhouse — should probably have day-to-day responsibility,” advisory committee Chairman Charles Wheelan said on Monday.

Kent Dahlberg, a Hanover Country Club member who also serves on the advisory committee, was encouraged by the trustees’ action, saying it’s potentially a first step toward bringing expertise and long-term planning to the golf course.

However, he warned that several outside groups were initially hesitant to lease or manage the country club. Some told the committee that leaving the property unchanged wouldn’t be financially viable.

“Ski areas can’t just make it selling lift tickets and hot chocolates in the lodge,” Dahlberg said, adding that a country club can’t maintain business without hosting functions as a secondary income.

Dartmouth Hall

Trustees also intend to renovate Dartmouth Hall, starting with an upcoming planning and feasibility study. The proposed upgrades will overhaul the building’s electrical, heating and ventilation systems; improve its energy efficiency; and restore some of its historic features.

The current Dartmouth Hall opened in 1906 and is a replica of the original structure, which burned two years earlier due to faulty wiring, according to the Rauner Special Collections Library.

Dartmouth Hall was built between 1784 and 1792 and served as the college’s dormitory, classroom, library and museum space. A chapel was added on in 1829, and electricity and steam heat were installed in 1895. The last update of Dartmouth Hall took place in 1935, when the building was gutted and fireproofed. It now is home to several of the college’s foreign language departments.

“On the threshold of our 250th anniversary, it seems only fitting to reaffirm the College’s commitment to the centrality of the liberal arts with a significant upgrade to the traditional home of the humanities,” President Philip Hanlon told trustees, according to the college’s news release.

Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.

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