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Haven House Renovation: Best of Old and New


View a photo gallery of the Haven House renovation

Much has changed in home construction since Smith College dedicated Haven House as a student residence in the early 1900s. Builders no longer insulate walls by filling them with bricks. And the design of windows and furnaces has progressed dramatically to improve energy efficiency.

Some changes, however, are not as welcome – the old-growth yellow pine that was once used as flooring is no longer available for that purpose.

So in planning the $5 million renovation of Haven House, a three-story student residence on Elm Street, designers made certain that the best of the old would be preserved to mingle with the best of the new.

“Architecturally, this home is so beautiful,” said Charles Conant, the Smith project manager overseeing the Haven House renovation this summer. “But the heating system is 100 years old and the drafty windows wasted heat.”

The contractor, Wright Builders, will burnish the home’s assets, refinishing floors, turning an unused dining room with fireplace into a living room (complete with a gas log in the fireplace), and turning a little-used room at the rear of the house into glassed-in four-season porch.

“It has a great view across the lawns to the campus pond,” said Conant of the porch. “It is sure to be a popular spot  -- I know because that is where the construction workers always gather.”

At the same time, a new furnace will achieve a level of energy efficiency that the century-old model never achieved. New windows and insulation will help retain the heat.

Haven House living room of yore (photo courtesy of Smith College Archives)

Workers are also carrying out another major change: relocating the main entrance of Haven House from the north side, where it faces Elm Street, to the building’s east side, facing the Campus Center. The change will preserve the current look of the Elm Street entrance while ensuring that it will not need to be widened for wheelchair accessibility.

The new main entrance will also mean that students will enter into one of the house’s most dramatic spaces, a foyer with a central staircase, fireplace and window seats.

Finally, a set of new furniture will greet the 53 students who move into Haven House in the fall. Even their rooms may be configured differently because the renovation will create five suites, each consisting of two bedrooms, a common room and shared bathroom.

Indeed, the contractors are aware of the date students will begin to return.

“We started this project a week before commencement and we have to be done by mid-August,” said Conant. “The students seem to arrive earlier and earlier.”


6/22/07   By Kristen Cole
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