College’s Dartmouth Hall to get $42 million renovation

  • Prospective Dartmouth College students are given a campus tour in Hanover, N.H., on October 7, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News file photograph — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/12/2020 9:39:19 PM
Modified: 11/12/2020 9:39:12 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth Hall, the white-painted brick building at the heart of the campus that stands as the defining image of 251-year-old Ivy League school, is about to undergo a renovation to modernize it for the 21st century.

Dartmouth’s trustees have approved a $42 million spending plan to gut and rebuild the interior of the building, which is a locus of the college’s humanities program and in which nearly all Dartmouth students have attended classes.

The renovation is being made possible by more than $25 million raised through financial contributions of 1,900 Dartmouth alumnae who made the project the goal of a three-year fundraising campaign, the largest such effort ever organized exclusively by women graduates of the college.

Dartmouth Hall “is literally and figuratively the heart of the campus and to send the message that its renovation is the result of generations of Dartmouth women coming together is a very powerful statement for future students,” said Caroline Hribar, a member of the Class of 2000 who helped to lead the fundraising campaign. “To be able to make our mark on campus in this way speaks to the power of Dartmouth women.”

From the outside, people will not notice much difference in the three-story structure that sits on a slight rise and facing east on the west side of Dartmouth Green. The current brick building, which was last renovated in the 1930s, was completed in 1906 after a fire destroyed the former 120-year wood timber building in 1904. Originally called “The College,” the building in the 19th century encompassed dorm rooms, classrooms, a dining hall and offices.

Today, Dartmouth Hall is home to the college’s Italian, German, Spanish and Portuguese departments and the below-level auditorium known as “Room 105,” where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech on civil rights on May 23, 1962, to an overflowing student audience.

Classrooms, meeting spaces and offices will be fitted out with modern technology in addition to completely new lighting and an HVAC system that includes AC — the current interior environment is infamous among both students and teachers for its poor ventilation and stuffiness on hot and humid summer days.

“This will be a deep renovation to give Dartmouth Hall life for another 50 years,” said Josh Keniston, vice president of campus services & institutional projects at Dartmouth. “We’re not just changing the layout. We’re making it go for decades to come.”

Keniston said that building materials, such as wood and granite, will be sourced from New Hampshire and Vermont. The two center-front doors, which are “not functional,” will be “reactiviated.” He said the $42 million price tag for the project is the full cost, including the design work already done and permitting. The balance of $17 million cost after the $25 million in donations will be funded through the college’s building program, he said.

Barbara Will, a professor of English and associate dean of the arts and humanities at Dartmouth, said she has “taught all over” Dartmouth Hall and described the building as a “faded jewel.”

She said that the Leslie Center for the Humanities, currently located in Kemeny Hall, will move to Dartmouth Hall and that the renovated classrooms will be “oriented toward 21st-century language teaching.”

“Every student takes a course in Dartmouth Hall at some point in their college career,” Will said. “The building really intellectually has an impact on every student at Dartmouth.”

Indeed, Will said that, in an era when science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs usually grab all the attention — and the funding — in college programs, the renovation of Dartmouth Hall is a testimony to the college’s ongoing commitment to the humanities.

“The humanities are struggling with enrollment, but this is a major investment by Dartmouth in the humanities,” Will said. “Dartmouth is saying here, ‘We really do value the humanities’ and making it possible in the 21st century.”

Contact John Lippman at

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