Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Andrew Mellon Center

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Institution Name: Chatham University
Original/Historic Place Name: George Laughlin Estate; Andrew W. Mellon Estate
Location on Campus: Woodland Rd.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1897original construction McClure & Spahr
ca. 1917addition Mellon, E. P. Olmsted Brothers
1972addition; dining hall Johnstone, McMillan & Associates
1998restoration and renovation; basement and second and third floors Unknown
2006renovation Rothschild Doyno Architects
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: stone
Walls: brick
Roof: slate
1897-1940private residence (George Laughlin family: 1897-1917; Andrew W. Mellon family: 1917-1940)
1917-2003other (bowling alley)
1917-2004other (pool)
1941-1971residence hall
1971-1999admissions office
1971-present (2007)dining hall
ca. 1998-present (2007)other (meeting room, boardroom)
1999-present (2007)administration

Significance: architecture, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

This Tudor revival building was donated to the college in 1940 by Paul Mellon. The Andrew W. Mellon estate comprised six acres and included tennis courts and a garage. In 1971, the Paul R. Anderson Dining Hall (Johnstone, McMillan & Associates) was added to the south end of the house. The addition is sympathetic in style and has had a minor impact on historic fiber (it attaches to the former kitchen and service wing of the house). Originally a dormitory, the house served as the Office of Admissions from 1971 to 1999. In 1998, the second and third floors were restored and rehabilitated for use as administrative offices; the basement ballroom was adapted for use as a meeting room and boardroom and an elevator was installed in an inconspicuous location to meet ADA requirements. The ornate first floor rooms are used for meetings and special events.

Upon purchasing the former Laughlin House in 1917, Andrew Mellon performed significant renovations to the house which included adding a bowling alley and indoor swimming pool that features a vaulted ceiling with Guastovino tiles. The structure of the pool and blowling alley were inserted inside the existing walls of the terrace and the exterior openings in the existing masonry were part of this expansion. In 2003, the bowling alley was converted into the Broadcast Studio, and the pool continued to be used by students until the opening of the Athletic and Fitness Center in 2004. Access to the studio, however, was limited to a winding tunnel with several sets of steps that descended from the lower level of the house. The pool was similarly difficult to access, with the addition of a steep set of steps from the lower level terrace.

Hence, in 2007 the college engaged rothschild Doyno Architects to develop an adaptive reuse plan for the former pool and terrace. The project is planned to renovate the pool into a multi-purpose meeting room while preserving the historic Guastovino tiles. Another requirement was to create a handicapped-accessible entrance to serve both the multi-purpose room and the Broadcast Studio.

The new terrace will wrap around the building, allowing for exterior use of the facility. The existing stone coursing at the lower terrace walls is being exposed and repointed. Regarding the north facade, a study of historic photographs revealed the existence of three original arched windows that had been covered by mechanical equipment. The new design will reuse these openings for new windows and doors to allow direct access to the north terrace, which overlooks the pond.

Trees significant to the Chatham Arboretum have been protected throughout the project, and the landscape will be further enhanced with historic plantings to frame the entrances and paths and also to open new vistas to the rear of the Mellon Center. The terrace balustrade and other upper terrace features (which have deteriorated over time) will be renovated or replaced. One of the two staircases that led from the terrace to Mellon Pond will be converted into a stepped landscape planter. A new handicapped accessible path will connect the building to all adjacent campus paths.

I. Bibliographic sources:

None specified.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections

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Last update: November 2006