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Johns Hopkins UniversityArts and Sciences Magazine

Revealing Moments in Gilman Hall

Glenn Ross and students

The past few months have witnessed remarkable changes in Gilman Hall, as more of its interior is demolished to make way for modern equipment, accessible spaces, additional classroom square footage, and redesigned areas.

Photo: Will Kirk/HIPS


The renovation of Gilman Hall turned dramatic in the fall and winter, with the careful dismantling of many familiar sights, the painstaking preservation of two rooms’ beautiful views, and the filling in of the newly dug basement with modern mechanical systems.

Outside, the building is encased in scaffolding as crews work to clean and re-point brick and prepare to refurbish the iconic clock tower. Inside, the building’s many stairwells have been removed from the top down by hand and with jackhammers. The dramatic deep empty chasms that currently exist will be filled in to provide more programmable space on all the floors. A new central stairway and elevator shafts will be constructed later in the renovation.

In every direction, the site bustles with activity. More walls have come down, new HVAC systems have been installed, and floors in several rooms have been raised to meet accessibility requirements. The basement excavation work is now complete, the building’s new mechanical systems installed, and a concrete floor poured over the top, framing an area that will become a lecture hall with a sloped floor.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. We will continue to selectively demolish areas and put in the new infrastructure,” says Martin Kajic, Gilman project manager. “Right now the building is wide open. [Gilman is] really starting to reveal itself with all of its original interior corridors, walls, and wide windows now in plain view.”

Some of the windows have been carefully removed for the duration of the renovation. Memorial Hall’s four steel sash picture windows and the 19 stained glass windows that are the defining feature of the Hutzler Undergraduate Reading Room were delicately lifted out of the building by a local restoration firm in a process that took nearly three weeks.

The Hut’s stained glass windows, as large as 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide, situated in the north wing, south wing, and most prominently, in the central bay, were presented to the university in 1930 by Mary King Carey in memory of her father, Francis T. King, an original university trustee. The windows’ art displays the marks (logos) used by European printers from the 15th and 16th centuries, the dawn of the industry. These marks usually appeared on the title page of the printer’s works.

Memorial Hall’s picture windows feature stained glass panels with seals of the institutions at which Daniel Coit Gilman worked during his life (Johns Hopkins, Yale, University of California, and the Carnegie Institute of Washington). Elizabeth Dwight Woolsey, Gilman’s second wife, commissioned the work, which was completed in 1923. The casement windows have arched tops and measure just over 9 feet tall and 5 feet wide.

Jacqueline O’Regan, Johns Hopkins’ curator of cultural properties, says the building’s renovation provided the perfect opportunity to repair the windows and enhance their luster. Worcester Eisenbrandt, a historic building restoration contracting firm based in Baltimore, orchestrated the removal of the windows and is also overseeing their restoration. All the windows will be put back in place (carefully!) once the renovation nears completion.

Early in 2009, crews dismantled—brick by brick—the 55-foot-long by 12-foot-wide truss bridge that served as the hallway between the Hut and Memorial Hall. The vending machine-filled walkway is no more, the plaster and brick walls demolished, and the flooring removed, leaving the skeleton of exposed steel beams that sits atop the old bookstore’s roof in the building’s interior light well.

A few weeks later, the remainder of the structure came down, after the bookstore roof was dismantled and temporary waterproofing put in place. Ultimately, the space will be transformed into a three-story, glass-topped central atrium, with a second-floor courtyard serving as the new bridge between the Hut and Memorial Hall. Beneath the courtyard will be a first-floor museum space for the exhibition and study of the university’s archaeological collection.


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