Courtesy of Notre Dame de Namur University
Rendering of the Carriage House building after seismic retrofitting.
Preserving a historic landmark while making room for a growing campus is the goal of Notre Dame de Namur University as it plans to seismically retrofit a 140-year-old building.
In two weeks, the private Catholic school in Belmont plans to begin updating its Carriage House with a retrofitted roof and exterior improvements while keeping with its architectural aesthetics.
It dates back to 1874 and now houses the Weigand Gallery, a small theater and classrooms.
“We wanted to expand the use of [the Carriage House] and this has been something that came up in the planning, that this additional structural strengthening needed to be done,” said NDNU spokesman Richard Rossi. “It’s not like the buildings about to fall down or anything, but it was considered prudent to do some additional work.”
Repairing the Carriage House is estimated to cost $500,000 and should be completed over the summer, Rossi said.
The neighboring historic Ralston Hall, however, was closed in 2012 and forced many administrative offices to relocate. Built in 1864, Ralston Hall needs major repairs and bringing it up to modern seismic standards is expected to cost between $12 million and $20 million, Rossi said. NDNU will have to raise funds for the repairs and that is expected to take significant time, Rossi said.
“Since Ralston Hall closed, we decided to take a look at how we use space on campus, so we’ve been looking at everything,” Rossi said. “As part of that whole thing, we were looking at how we were using the Madison Art Center (Carriage House) and ... it was recommended to us to do some additional seismic strengthening.”
The school already has funds to repair the Carriage House, which will continue to be used for its art programs after construction is completed, Rossi said.
The school is renowned for its Weigand gallery and is proud to boast it maintains the largest art therapy masters program. This year, it began to offer the nation’s first Ph.D. in art therapy program, Rossi said.
Currently, many of the art therapy courses are held at Gavin Hall, but that may change, Rossi said.
“The art therapy program, it’s one of the crown jewels of the [art] program,” Rossi said. “Over time, we expect … that [the Carriage House] will be shared by the art department and the art therapy department.”
Belmont Community Development Director Carlos de Melo said the Carriage House project is straightforward.
“It’s a relatively simple project. They’re in essence doing a seismic retrofitting of the building … and in doing so they are adding some additional stone facing to match the historic character of the building,” de Melo said.
The school was founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1851. It was originally located in San Jose before moving to Belmont and at the time, Ralston Hall was the original campus, Rossi said. Since then, the university began occupying nearly two dozen buildings, many of which were built in the 1950s.
Although NDNU is planning for the future, it’s important to the university and the city that the historic appearance of the Carriage House and Ralston Hall is maintained, Rossi said.
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