Grainger Hall to be Rebuilt not Renovated
Officials at Longwood College have decided to reconstruct, rather than renovate, Grainger Hall, which suffered extensive damage during the April 24 fire that swept through the historic center of the campus. According to Dave Harnage, executive vice president for administration and finance, "constructing a new building will serve Longwood better and be more cost effective and efficient in the long run."
The decision to reconstruct Grainger came nearly five months after the April 24 fire that completely destroyed the historic Rotunda and Ruffner complex. Although adjacent Grainger Hall survived the fire, the building sustained extensive fire, smoke, heat, and water damage that included the collapse of the roof onto the top floor. Damage displaced 30 faculty members and destroyed years of research and personal belongings.
During the recovery phase, the interior of the building was gutted and additional infrastructure problems were discovered that might have existed before the fire. According to Harnage, "We had structural problems with that building. We couldn't renovate the building to its previous status without addressing these structural issues. Plus there's no guarantee that if we renovated, Grainger would not have developed sick building syndrome a few years down the road. It's all about structural integrity and having a safe environment for our students and and faculty."
It took over four months to dry and dehumidify Grainger Hall in order for structural engineers to make an accurate assessment of the building's safety and future potential. The college pursued an independent and intensive study and evaluation of the existing structure that included three different structural analyses and a material analysis of the existing bricks, mortar, wooden supports, and perimeter walls.
A new Grainger Hall will also be more aesthetically compatible with the reconstructed Ruffner complex and Rotunda. "All the bricks will match," Harnage stated, "and, better still, we will have a complete, integrated complex that will meet our programming needs for the next 40-50 years."
Dr. Patricia Cormier, president of Longwood College, stated, "It will cost us more to rebuild, but that will be money well spent. The safety of our students is our first priority." The college will have to pay the difference between what the insurance company will pay and what reconstruction will cost. The total cost will not be determined until the design phase is completed. The college will then submit a request to the General Assembly to provide funding for that differential.
Demolition of Grainger Hall, which was constructed as part of the Ruffner complex and opened in 1903, began on September 24. Workers preserved certain architectural elements such as keystones, columns, pedestals, lintels, and decorative masonry work that adorned the façade and portico of the building.
Construction priorities over the next few months will be the renovation of Main Tabb residence hall that has been fitted with a new roof and should be ready for occupancy by the beginning of the spring semester. Next on the agenda will be the reconstruction of Grainger Hall in order to accommodate the 30 faculty members who were displaced to temporary offices as a result of the fire.