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Boston University’s ‘Castle’ renovated, restored for alumni center

The Castle was originally built in 1915 and has been renovated and restored as the alumni center. It is on track to achieve LEED Gold. All exterior photos by Raj Das Photography.

by Jack Curley

The Dahod Family Alumni Center at Boston University’s historic Tudor Revival-style “Castle” has been completely renovated, restored and revitalized. Located at the corner of Bay State Road and Granby Street, part of Boston’s Bay State Road Historic District, the 15,371-square-foot Dahod Family Alumni Center will serve as a vibrant new gathering place and “home away from home” for alumni on BU’s campus. The Castle renovation was funded through generous alumni donations. Finegold Alexander Architects served as the Architect of Record for the project.

The stone’s color was hidden by black pollution but now has been restored to its original warmth. Raj Das Photography

“The building is a testament to the power and generosity of the 335,000 Boston University alumni in 185 countries around the world. Our goal was to make this building a welcoming, vibrant gathering and meeting space for that network. The BU Castle has long been a beloved part of our campus and alumni are now able to enjoy the space on a daily basis,” said Steven Hall, vice president for alumni relations.  The building re-opened in September 2018 and was celebrated on Alumni Weekend September 20 to 23, and since that time it has been an active place.

The Castle was originally built in 1915 by William Lindsey Jr. as a home for his family. Lindsey was a prominent Boston businessman, playwright and poet, who visited Britain for inspirational design ideas. The design, executed in the Tudor Gothic style by well-known Boston Architectural Firm Chapman & Frazer, was based on Athelhampton Hall in Dorsetshire, England. Many of the eclectic stone carvings were executed by Hugh Cairns, the sculptor of the figures in the frieze of the Trinity Church porch. In 1939, Oakes and Blanche Ames, the then owners, sold the mansion to William Chenery, who donated the house to the University.  The Castle served as a home to university presidents and their families until 1967 when it was converted to a university-function facility for lectures, small concerts, weddings and all manner of university gatherings.

“This historic project enables the sustainable transformation of one of the University’s richest heritage buildings into a vital Alumni Center for daily use and activity,” said Rebecca Berry, president, Finegold Alexander Architects. “The Castle, now fully restored, will continue to be an iconic, high-profile destination, putting alumni literally and figuratively at the heart of the Charles River campus.”

The BU Castle is an ideal location for an alumni center because of its proximity to the admissions center, known as the Alan and Sherry Leventhal Center next door, the first building a prospective student enters when visiting the University. The location allows potential students to see a thriving presence of BU alumni on campus when they visit for tours and open houses. “The Dahod Family Alumni Center is an important physical statement about the lifelong relationship alumni have with Boston University,” said Walt Meissner, associate vice president for operations at BU. “It will provide a portal through which alumni can continue their engagement with the university and with one another — or re-engage if they’ve not been connected.”

The Castle’s interior features space for alumni to work, study and connect. Interior photos by Jane Messenger.

Features of the Transformation

Working with the facilities, operations, dining and alumni relations teams at Boston University, Finegold Alexander Architects preserved the historic architecture, with near surgical insertion of new technology and infrastructure.  The first floor features informal seating areas for alumni to work, study and connect, as well as dedicated faculty and staff dining in the former formal dining and music rooms.  The second and third floors house gathering spaces for alumni, as well as the Alumni Relations office.  The upper floors were connected to the adjacent Leventhal Center to provide handicapped accessibility to the building for the first time.

Interior photos by Jane Messenger.

The ground floor, long since altered, will house the revitalized and expanded BU Fuller’s Pub, an exclusive gathering place for the BU community. The insertion of a new 1,000-sq.ft. commercial kitchen enabled a greatly expanded menu for the Pub, while also serving faculty dining upstairs and catering for various events. “The upgraded kitchen features an expanded menu serving made-to-order burgers, fries, and other classic pub fare,” says Peter Smokowski, vice president for auxiliary services, Boston University. Creating the kitchen required a sensitive addition at the rear of the building – whose roof has also been captured as a terrace for events for all the building’s users.

Exterior Restoration and System Improvements

Raj Das Photography

The most visible change to the Castle is the removal of 100 years of wear from the building. The team completely restored the exterior. The original sandstone masonry has been carefully cleaned, repointed, and patched as required due to the nature of the material.  The stone’s buff color (long hidden behind black pollution staining) returns the building to its original “warm” feeling desired by the architect. The existing wood windows – many with lead caning patterns – were removed from the building, completely restored, painted, weather-stripped, and reinstalled. All existing slate was removed, from the roof and completely replaced with new slate tiles and copper flashing. Large numbers of slates were preserved and are being made into special plaques for Boston University alumni.

Other upgrades include new utility services, comprehensive M/E/P systems, and an insulated, vented roof structure below the slate. “The M/E/P and envelope improvements will allow the building to operate for another 50-100 years and are a testament to BU’s commitment to sustainability.  The project is on track to achieve LEED Gold certification – no small feat for a historic restoration of a century-old house!” said Berry.

Project Team:

Finegold Alexander Architects (Architect)
Suffolk Construction (General Contractor)
Chapman Waterproofing Company (Masonry)
Gilbert & Becker (Roofing Contractor)
Window Women of New England (Window Restoration)
Blackwell’s Glass (Window Leading)
Thornton Tomasetti (Structural Engineer)
WSP (M/E/P Engineer)
Nitsch Engineering (Civil Engineer)
Crabtree McGrath Associates, Inc. (Food Service)
Fennessy Consulting Services (Cost Estimator)
Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting Inc (Lighting Designer)
C3 Commercial Construction Consulting, Inc. (Code Consultant)
Kalin Associates, Inc. (Specifications Writer)
Building Conservation Associates (Envelope Consulting/Conservationist)
Jane Messinger (Interior Photographer)
Raj Das Photography (After Exterior Photographer)
Boston University Photography/Cydney Scott (Event photography)