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Project Highlight: Restoring the Center of Campus Life at Indiana State University

Courtesy of ISU Archives

Completed in 1909, Normal Hall is the second oldest surviving building on the Indiana State University campus in Terre Haute, Indiana – about one hour west of Indianapolis. Since then, Normal Hall has undergone multiple renovations, including an addition added in 1957. But by 2010, the grand neo-classical building was largely unoccupied and falling into disrepair. The hall maintained its perch at the center of campus, but years of service to its tens of thousands of students had taken their toll.

“We try to preserve the history of ISU here on campus,” said Seth Porter of ISU facility management. “But between roof leaks and other issues, it was becoming an eyesore.” So, the State of Indiana approved a $16 million renovation project and partnered with architectural firm arcDESIGN to bring the building back to life.

“This renovation will return Normal Hall to its rightful place in the center of campus life,” said university President Dan Bradley. “The project will provide a valuable new resource to students while preserving and re-energizing a significant historic structure in the heart of campus.”

Aside from the stately Indiana limestone, the building had to be redone from the foundation to the roof. And the history that makes Normal Hall special also made for unique challenges in the design and renovation process.

The Biggest Challenge
During construction, crews discovered unstable structural conditions on the north side of the building adjacent to the original six-story stacks system. The entire exterior wall had to be removed and replaced, all while supporting the existing attic and roof nearly 60-feet above the ground floor.

To do this, crews constructed a mammoth 60-foot high temporary structural system in and through the six-story iron stacks system still in place to support the original attic and roof deck. The north wall was completely removed and reconstructed. Structural steel columns supporting roof trusses were replaced while ends of deteriorated roof trusses were reconstructed in place.

Preserving History
The largest – and brightest – rehabilitation was the stained glass dome atop Normal Hall. The original dome had deteriorated so extensively that, by the middle of the 20th century, the remaining glass panels were completely removed and the dome was completely hidden. A suspended plaster ceiling sealed off the once grand rotunda.

Courtesy of arcDESIGN

The dome restoration began with historic photos, documents and forensic analysis. The glass art featured distinguished educators and philosophers. Some of the original stained glass panels were recovered from the building, whiles others had to be recreated. Conrad Schmitt Studios, in Wisconsin, restored the stained glass to its former glory. With the stained glass restored, rehab on the rotunda continued. Inside Normal Hall, the rotunda mural was restored and the surrounding light bulb sockets were re-wired – more than 140 of them to light the dome. Above the dome, a new 40-foot octagonal skylight and supplemental lighting was installed to light to dome. And below the rotunda, 20 original columns that stretch through the open hall were restored with scagliola and paint finishes.

To read more about this historic project, read this write-up in U.S. Builders Review.

Garland products used on this project:

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