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UMass rededicates Old Chapel after $21 million renovation

  • University faculty, alumna and others gather on the second floor of the Old Chapel during a re-dedication on March 23, 2017. Jack Suntrup—

  • The Great Hall inside the newly renovated and reopened Old Chapel at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is shown last month. Below, the chapel is shown from outside. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY PHOTOS

  • The Great Hall inside the newly renovated and reopened Old Chapel at UMass Amherst is shown Feb. 24, 2017.

  • An exterior view of the newly renovated and reopened Old Chapel at UMass Amherst is shown Feb. 24, 2017.

  • A restored stained glass window in the Great Hall is shown Feb. 24, 2017 inside the newly renovated and reopened Old Chapel at UMass Amherst.

  • An exterior view of the newly renovated and reopened Old Chapel at UMass Amherst is shown Feb. 24, 2017.

  • An exterior view of the newly renovated and reopened Old Chapel at UMass Amherst is shown Feb. 24, 2017.

  • UMass Amherst freshman students Summer Salisbury, left, Sophie Walton and Caleigh Collamer study Feb. 24, 2017 in the first floor multipurpose space inside the newly renovated and reopened Old Chapel on campus.



@JackSuntrup
Saturday, April 01, 2017

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy knew the Old Chapel was iconic when he was interviewing for the job five years ago. So during a walk through campus, he stepped toward it.

“Somebody rudely stopped me and said, ‘sorry, you cannot go in there. It’s been closed since 1999, actually,’” Subbaswamy said. “And my normal reaction would have been something like ‘how outrageous!’ But, remember, I was a job candidate, so better sense prevailed and I didn’t say anything.”

Subbaswamy told the story during a rededication of the structure March 23, the culmination of a two-year remodeling project.

“It has been inspiring to watch so many members of the extended UMass Amherst family join in this extraordinary effort,” Subbaswamy said. “Now, once again, the doors to Old Chapel are open and warm light illuminates the heart of our campus.”

The granite and sandstone structure dates to 1885. Stephen Carpenter Earle, a Worcester architect, designed the Romanesque structure.

Because of deterioration, it was closed in 1999. The new space features seamless walls, light fixtures and neat wooden floors. High wooden ceilings and thick beams accentuate the space’s second floor. The first floor contains new ceiling panels and a big-screen TV.

On Thursday, university alumni, faculty and others ate hors d’oeuvres and pastries after speeches by university officials and before a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Victor Woolridge, trustee and member of the UMass Building Authority, graduated in 1980.

“It felt like you were kind of walking into a horror movie,” he said of the old, green, chipped walls. “I would look up at the beams — not the walls, which were scary — but the beams, and they tell such a great story, because these beams just last forever. They are a symbol of strength.”

The price tag for the construction of the granite structure was $25,000 in 1885 dollars. The two-year renovation, spearheaded by the chancellor, cost $21 million, with about 10 percent coming from private donations, he said.

The second floor will be used for performances and lectures, while the first floor will be used for other events and displays, according to a news release.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.