, , , ,

Andover Hall has remained an integral part of the HDS community since its completion in 1911. At the time, the construction of Andover symbolized a joining of both Harvard Divinity School and Andover Theological Seminary. Throughout the years, HDS’s campus has slowly transformed into the space it is now. Those who visit campus today might be surprised that Divinity Hall once housed the entire Divinity School, including the library. The addition of Andover Hall in the early 20th century expanded HDS’ potential for community, as I expect its transformation into Swartz Hall will support the Divinity School’s ever-expanding mission to prepare ethical and educated leaders for an ever changing, and often challenging world. Improvements to these spaces have been made in the past, but the current project will provide the first comprehensive renovation of the building since its construction more than a century ago. As a recent HDS alum who spent the last two years studying in Andover, I am thrilled that this renovation will modernize the space and create more opportunities for community life than were possible before.

The renovation will include the construction of an additional multipurpose room that will have the capacity to host conferences and accommodate our largest classes and lectures as well as new student orientation, a new and inclusive multi-faith space, modernized classrooms, and vastly improved accessibility throughout the building. Before the renovation, activities were dispersed throughout Divinity Hall, Rock Hall, and Andover. Creating a central hub for the HDS community is a major goal of the project. As part of this vision, the Café will be moved to Swartz Hall, closer to Andover Library. The project will also reduce the carbon footprint of the building. In its current state, it is quite the gas guzzler, especially in comparison with Divinity and Rock Halls, both of which are LEED Gold Certified. Many updates to Andover will be invisible, such as updating the heating and cooling systems. Spaces like the Braun Room, Andover Chapel, and the Sperry Room will remain largely the same as before the renovation, with a few minor changes.

The greatest loss to HDS during the renovation was the Divinity Oak, a red oak of more than a century that once stood in the courtyard between the library and the main entrance to Andover Hall. This great being was much beloved by students, faculty, and staff who found extraordinary comfort in its presence. Many HDS affiliates were outspoken about the tree in hopes of preserving its life, however, arborists deemed it to be in irreversible decline. A fellow MDiv student designed a ceremony to honor the tree for its life and many gifts. Members of the HDS community were in attendance both for this ceremony and the cutting of the tree.

Divinity Oak in front of Andover Hall, Spring 2009. Photo by Jennifer TumSuden.

Work on Andover, now named Swartz Hall, began immediately after this year’s commencement exercises and is expected to take at least 18 months. In the meantime, the activities of Swartz Hall will be moved to an interim building at 60 Oxford Street. I interviewed staff at HDS to hear their opinions on the move, their new office spaces, and the renovation project more generally.

Tim Whelsky, Associate Dean for Student Services and Enrollment; Member of the Renovation Planning Committee

Time at HDS: 12 years at HDS, 4 as Associate Dean for Enrollment and Student Services

During our interview, Tim stated that the driving force for the renovation is to make HDS a better community. To quote: “Some are concerned about losing the Harvard charm that Andover hall has to offer, but from listening to students, the shape of the building does not lend itself to community life. The Braun Room (where Community Tea and other events take place) serves as our living room, but other than that, Andover doesn’t have a layout conducive to community-building. One of my roles in the renovation committee is to bring in voices of students past and present to make sure everyone is heard. One of our goals is to create a space for all events that have not been imagined due to the restrictions of the building before renovation.”

In discussing the long-term plans for the renovation, he explained that “the vision for this project has really been ongoing for many years. We are excited for the creation of a new and inclusive multi-faith space, but lots of questions remain about how things will be set up. Alumni and students are invaluable resources on this matter and we hope to continue to benefit from their expertise. We want to be especially mindful to both tradition and innovation in practice and technology.”

Beth Flaherty, Director of Financial Aid

Time at HDS: 13 years, going on 14

When asked how the renovation might affect her interactions with students, Beth has a positive outlook: “I am really looking forward to being in the same space that students are most of the time. Being in Divinity Hall before was difficult because students had to go out of their way to visit me. The proximity will help us interact better.”

I also asked Beth what she thought about the interim space at 60 Oxford: “I am very happy in my office at 60 Oxford. It feels a little like living in a fishbowl because of the large windows, but it is great people watching and conducive to private conversations. The classrooms will be nice, and there is also a very nice lounge space. There will be plenty of spaces for community. I know the effects of the renovation can be rough, but the benefits are worthwhile, ultimately.”

Katie Caponera, Assistant Director for Student Services Programming

Time at HDS: 6 years

Katie describes her role at HDS as “collaborating with students to plan programs, events, lectures and conferences students want to have on campus. I aim to help students realize their plans to make this community their own.”

Although she recognizes that change can be challenging, Katie points out that “there are many pros to a new space, especially in the interim building. It allows us to shake things up and think creatively about programs and initiatives we’ve done for a number of years in the same spaces. For example, having to host Community Tea and Noon Service in the new space will help us break molds. It also puts us in closer proximity to colleagues and students. It will be a game changer not to have to move back and forth between buildings.”

Katie is most excited that “the renovation is going to make our campus much more accessible. I think this is reason enough for the whole thing. We will no longer need to give complicated instructions to folks with mobility issues. In general, everything will be much more welcoming.”

As someone who books rooms for events, “the conference/classroom/multipurpose room will be fantastic. We are bursting at the seams in terms of space.  Limitations of space, historically, have been tricky and this will allow for much more flexibility.”

Even though Katie has made such a great case for change, she does have a few concerns: “As much as I’d like to see tradition get shaken up a bit, I am a little nervous about what this means for the community. Questions that I have are how can we make the interim space feel like our campus and how can we bring character of the school to this new, more modern space? How to make it reflective of our community? Sitting meditation, Tuesday Morning Eucharist, Community Tea, and Noon Service will all continue during the renovation.”

To help you visualize the newly named Swartz Hall, check out this video from the HDS website:

You can read more about the goals of the renovation on our website, here.