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Elmira College Cowles Hall

Project Info

Name: Cowles Hall Restoration & Stabilization

Client: Elmira College

Location: Elmira, New York

Project Data

Size: 100,000 square feet

Completion Date: 2012

Designer: QPK Design (Syracuse, NY)

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Project Summary

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Cowles Hall dates back to 1855 when Elmira College was founded. It was the first college building and was named for the first college president. At that time it housed student dormitory rooms, dining facilities, labs and classrooms. The Octagon on the top of the building lights up and serves as the college symbol. The portico on the south side of the building is the site of incoming student orientation and graduation ceremonies. Welliver managed the extensive $29 million restoration of the building, which had been out of use for over twenty years.


Extensive foundation stabilization was the first order of business. Crews literally dug old coal and dirt from the basement to make way for the steel beams used for stabilization of the 155 year-old brick shell of the building. Building from the ground up, additional steel was installed to reinforce the structure before each interior level was demalished for rebuilding.


The east wing is a two-story mutli-purpose gathering space and resembles a grand chapel. All of the floors that had been removed, were refinished and reinstalled. A center area on the first floor is a reception space to accommodate private events and even alumni weddings. The other wing has seminar rooms that provide air-conditioned classroom space to allow for more summer programming. The additional floors are finished but have been left empty for future programming needs.


Site logistics planning was key for this project. The small octagonal belvedere from the top of the middle of the building was removed, as well as the first three floors in the center section of the building. That left space for materials to be placed through the top of the building by crane, as well as to upgrade the belvedere with modern materials for fire safety and structural integrity. Fifty false chimneys were rebuilt and added back to the building to match the original facade of 1855.


Fifty false chimneys are being rebuilt and added back to the building to match the original façade of 1855. 

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