Restoration of Peabody Hall, constructed in 1913, is slated to begin this spring. Photos by Russell Cothren
Architects Strive for Historic Preservation, Utility in Peabody Hall Restoration
Two architectural firms leading the restoration and renovation of Peabody Hall are working to ensure that the building remains a historic symbol of higher education on the University of Arkansas campus while serving the university's ever-growing teacher-preparation program.
Allison Architects of Fayetteville is leading the $8.5 million project in partnership with a firm that specializes in historic restorations – Schwartz/Silver Architects of Boston. Both are award-winning firms. Allison Architects has completed numerous institutional projects, and Schwartz/Silver Architects has completed many projects that combine new architecture with historically significant older buildings.
Working with officials of the university and the College of Education and Health Professions, of which the Curriculum and Instruction Department is a part, the architects have several goals for the Peabody Hall project.
They plan to modernize the nearly 100-year-old, three-story building with all-new mechanical systems, including electrical, plumbing, restrooms and elevator. These improvements will result in energy efficiency with the goal of achieving LEED certification. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system developed by the Green Building Council.
The architects also plan to restore many of the building's original features to ensure Peabody's continued place as an icon of the higher education institution.
The red brick shows through on two test panels on the north side of the building. Architect Sallie Overbey said this is the first time the original brick and limestone has been revealed since the building was first painted a light cream color in the 1940’s in an effort to make it visually blend in with the adjacent limestone collegiate-gothic buildings in the historic zone of campus. "Unfortunately, the paint obscured handsome brick and limestone details and diminished the architectural character of Peabody Hall," she said.
And, as importantly as the other concerns, the architects want the 27,230 square feet of reconfigured space in the building to serve the needs of the faculty, staff and students who teach, learn and study in Peabody Hall. Offices, classrooms and a computer lab will be modernized. In fall 2009, 442 students were enrolled in the college's childhood education program.
Faculty and staff members moved out of the building at the end of November into Stone House South, formerly Phoenix House, on Arkansas Avenue. Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2011.
Sallie Overbey, senior associate with the Fayetteville firm, said the architects and general contractor, East-Harding of Little Rock, began investigating the building in the fall. They used forensic processes to assess the condition of the building and determine how to proceed.
Construction workers will remove the white paint on the exterior of the building to restore the original red brick and enhance the limestone bands in the outer walls.
"Peabody Hall, like many older buildings, has undergone several modifications over the years," said Randolph Meiklejohn, managing principal for Schwartz/Silver. "We want to bring back the best of the original building. It will look handsome, regal."
The plans and design of the renovation and restoration were developed through interaction with the users of the building, the architects explained. A committee of college leaders and curriculum and instruction faculty and staff met numerous times with the architects to discuss details of the project, with additional input gathered at a collegewide meeting.
"Many people expressed how much they love the building," said Meiklejohn, who is working closely with Peter Kleiner, Schwartz/Silver associate, on the project. "The users are sentimental about it in spite of some physical discomfort.
"Fundamentally, the building is in good shape," he continued. "It needs to be made modern and accessible. We see that modernization as attainable while at the same time keeping the historic feel of the outside, public face of the building."
Overbey said the original tile roof will essentially be removed and re-installed.
"The clay tiles are in good condition," she said, "but the felt underlayment has deteriorated so has to be replaced."
Meiklejohn predicted that, once Peabody is restored, some visitors to campus will say they never noticed the building before. "It will be a lovely jewel of the campus. Old Main may be the crown, but Peabody Hall will be a jewel in the crown."