Modernization makes Roosevelt Hall more accessible and reveals its history

When you renovate an 88-year-old building, you’re bound to find surprises. Happily, the architects working on Chapman University’s Roosevelt Hall had a bit of fun with some of the treasures they discovered in those old walls.

A large attic fan — a 1928 version of air conditioning — and several wood columns were uncovered when old plaster was peeled away during Roosevelt Hall’s modernization. All are staying and will be visible when staff and faculty start moving back in the coming weeks, says Troy Aday, the principal architect for the project. The fan, because it’s pretty cool even though it’s no longer functional. And the columns because they’re part of the building’s structural support.


The vintage attic fan will remain and can be seen through the display window created for it.

“We didn’t even know that attic fan was there. And there are several old wooden columns. Those are original, too. We were able to clean those up,” says Aday.

But the proudest accomplishment for architects and University planners is that the job brought the neoclassical two-story building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An elevator was installed, and all hallways, doorways, light switches and restrooms meet ADA standards. In fact, the doorway clearances are even wider than ADA regulations require so that some of today’s slightly larger motorized chairs and carts can be accommodated, says Rick Turner, associate vice president for facilities management.

“That’s one of the biggest messages that the administration and everyone involved wanted out there in the planning process – this building needed to be ADA accessible,” says Turner.

In addition, the building also meets new fire, seismic and related safety codes and includes
gender-inclusive restrooms
like those on the first floor of Leatherby Libraries, he said.

Roosevelt Hall houses the administration and most of the faculty offices for Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. A drought-resistant garden and benches on the building’s east side will soon be added, too.

Originally called Founder’s Hall when built as part of the old Orange High School campus, Roosevelt Hall is listed in the National Registry for Historic Buildings. It was rededicated in 1994 to honor James Roosevelt, son of President Franklin Roosevelt and a Chapman University life trustee.

Display image at top/Lia Hanson ’18

Dawn Bonker

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