Old Chapel
Old Chapel

Old Chapel at the University of Massachusetts is the most recognizable historic landmark on campus. Designed by notable architect Stephen C. Earle, and built in 1884 when the school was known as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, the building initially served as a multi-purpose facility to accommodate lectures, religious services, a library and reading room. The building was renovated in 1936 to create classrooms in place of the library on the 1st floor and the stained-glass windows were replaced with standard double and triple-hung divided lites. Operating as a classroom building for over sixty years, the building was closed in 1999 due to non-compliant code issues and had remained shuttered for over fifteen years.

With the help of generous donors, the iconic structure has now been completely renovated.

Project Description

The renovation created a new entry pavilion on the south elevation. This leaves both the pre-existing entries on the east and west side of the building intact for building egress. A new entry terrace surrounds the entry pavilion identifying the new entry and creating exterior program space. A combination of ramps and sloped walkways gradually rise to meet the existing building floor elevation.

A new glass pavilion of minimal construction is sensitively integrated into the existing building. Two existing windows on the South elevation are modified to accommodate new doors thus creating an energy efficient air lock outside of the existing building. A new double height entry lobby with an elevator joins the space between the two stair halls. The opening between the 1st and 2nd floor allows building occupants to catch a glimpse of the existing timber framed 2nd floor ceiling. The lobby is adjacent to a new multipurpose space. Movable partition walls allow for ultimate flexibility for display and room partitioning. The 2nd floor Great Hall remains much like the original with the exception of proposed changes to the platform and balcony areas. The existing rose window on the north elevation has been uncovered and viewed from the Great Hall for the first time since 1936.

A new mechanical vault is located below grade and outside of the building adjacent to the basement. The basement houses the public toilets, catering kitchen, and storage. A new service drive at the northeast corner of the building was established for deliveries to the basement level.

Key Design Elements

  • Existing 1st floor entrances on east and west elevation remain unaltered and become egress only
  • Service entrance at northeast corner of building
  • New interior elevator
  • Mechanical Vault located below grade outside the building
  • New terrace at south elevation
  • Two south elevation window sills lowered to create doors for new entrance
  • New Entry Pavilion addition on south elevation
  • New sloped walkway on east elevation cycled or salvaged