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Harvard Divinity School Adapts to Swartz Hall Renovation

Harvard Divinity School
Swartz Hall of Harvard Divinity School is undergoing renovations.

Renovations of Swartz Hall — formerly known as Andover Hall — at the heart of Harvard Divinity School’s campus began in June and have continued in the demolition phase as the school year begins.

The building is undergoing its first renovation since 1911, and was renamed following a gift from Susan S. Swartz and her husband, James R. Swartz ’64. To adapt to temporarily losing access to the large, historic building, the Divinity School moved several administrative offices, classrooms, and other spaces to 60 Oxford St., a five minute walk from Swartz Hall.

The renovations are set to add a 200-seat event hall, more environmentally friendly facilities, and a multifaith chapel in addition to Andover Chapel, which was built for a mainly Protestant community.

“It was very old and in need of renovations,” said Seth A. Castiglione, a second-year student at the Divinity School.

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The 18-month construction project has necessitated some flexibility on the part of students and faculty. Ashley Y. Lipscomb, president of the Harvard Divinity School Student Association, said that knowing in advance that the school’s hub would be temporarily moved to 60 Oxford St. helped ease the transition.

“For me personally the move seemed seamless,” she said. “We like our new classroom spaces — or at least, I do.”

She said the Student Association is also assisting with the transition by keeping students informed about changes on campus.

“For example, our community food pantry — how do we inform students [the] food pantry is now moved from this location to this location? Or posters, reminding students you can post at Oxford Street in the basement — little logistical things to help the transition,” Lipscomb said.

Losing Swartz Hall and Andover Chapel, however, has posed a disruption for some.

“What I saw before during my visit last year was there were a lot of students, they were gathering in Andover Hall, and there was more coherence,” said Yao Meng, a first-year Divinity School student. “Now, some students may be at Divinity Hall, some at 60 Oxford St., some may work at Rock Cafe, and we don’t meet each other.”

Steven S. Fisher, a second-year student at the Divinity School, said that Andover Chapel had previously served as the center of the community for many students.

“I don’t think that’s a space that’s necessarily replaceable,” he said. “At the same time, a lot of the reasons these developments are happening is so we can create a new multifaith space for those kinds of gatherings, one that’s more reflective of our community.”

During the renovations, the space at 60 Oxford St. will host Divinity School community traditions, such as noon services and community tea.

“We appreciate all members of our community understanding the need to temporarily relocate offices, classrooms, and event spaces while Swartz Hall (formerly Andover Hall) undergoes its first major renewal in its 100-year history,” Divinity School spokesperson Michael P. Naughton wrote in an emailed statement.

The Andover-Theological Library, which is adjacent to Swartz Hall, will remain open during the renovation. To prepare for construction, staff relocated some documents, purchased noise-canceling headsets, and moved the library entrance, according to Douglas L. Gragg, library manager of the Andover-Theological Library.

“So far it has not been as disruptive as we feared it might be,” Gragg said. “There’s been some noise and banging and vibration and all that, but so far, so good.”

The building was overdue for maintenance, Gragg — who is on the building committee — added. He said he looks forward to the newly designed building with more spaces where members of the Divinity School community can casually interact.

Correction: Sept. 18, 2019

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the renovations will include a multifaith chapel to replace Andover Chapel. In fact, the renovations will leave Andover Chapel intact and simply add a new multifaith chapel.

—Staff writer Matteo N. Wong can be reached at matteo.wong@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @matteo_wong.

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