Residence hall renovations earning high marks

September 16, 2008

Senior Brenna Morin '09 describes her new living arrangements in a word: “Phenomenal.”

“That has been my word since Day 1,” said the 21-year-old senior Communication major when asked what she thinks of the renovated wing of Blanche Ward residence hall.

Gone are the cracks on the walls, the stained carpeting and the dark, wood furniture, Morin and other Blanche Ward residents said.

Now, residents proudly point to freshly painted walls in plum, sage and ivory tones, carpeted rooms and hallways that have reduced the noise level, and lighter-colored wood furniture.

And, several residents stressed, they now have reliable wireless Internet access that enables them to study or do research anywhere in the building.

Morin and Liz Walther '09, a 22-year-old business major, lived on the fourth-floor last year with fellow sorority sisters from Alpha Nu Omega.

Before this semester, Walther and Morin said, residents often jokingly referred to the residence hall as the “Chateau Blanche,” because it was anything but fancy.

“Now we call it Chateau Blanche because it’s so great,” Morin said. “I’m more prone to stay in my room and do my work now, instead of going to the library, because it’s so nice.”

Walther said the renovations help students feel better about living on campus.

“It makes a difference when the building is nice and clean,” she said.

The renovation of Blanche Ward residence hall began immediately after commencement in May.

Construction was completed on one wing of the building in time for students to move in for this semester.

The renovation project, which is expected to cost $6 million, includes plans to install a geothermal well field to provide energy-efficient heating and air conditioning. Student lounges are being added to each of the buildings five floors, and clubrooms on the ground floor are to be replaced by a new wing of rooms.

The project is expected to be finished before the spring semester and provide living quarters for about 175 men and women.

As previous residents of Blanche Ward, Morin and Walther said they had slightly mixed emotions about moving back into the renovated wing because “there is so much history.”

“But it’s for the better,” Walther said. “It’s attracting more people and making them excited about living in Blanche Ward.”

Both fondly pointed out the closet doors, holdovers from the “old” Blanche Ward, that serve as a daily reminder of the more pleasant memories they have.

According to a recently published history of the college, “Fearless and Bold,” Blanche Ward residence hall, named for the college’s third president, Albert Norman Ward, opened in the fall of 1935. It was designed to house 160 women, and included rooms for some faculty and a women’s gymnasium. It contained the first elevator in Carroll County.

Blanche Ward residence hall was last renovated in 1989.

Upgrading the college’s older residence halls will continue to be a priority, school officials have said.

Renovation of the Garden Apartments was finished in the spring. The residence area includes 12 apartments, each housing four students, and 12 suites that house five students each.

Opened in 1974, the three-story Garden Apartments are situated at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Monroe Street

The Garden Apartments project, which cost about $4.5 million, also included installation of a geothermal well system for heating and air conditioning.

Other improvements included replacing bathtubs with showers, creating more single bedrooms, and removing the largely underused kitchens.

Last fall, the renovated North Village apartment buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue opened to students.