by LIZ FOSTER
Despite a few setbacks, both Seacobeck and Virginia Hall renovations will be completed in 2021, bringing major updates to two historical buildings on campus. Virginia Hall, Mary Washington’s second oldest residence hall, will be completed in early summer of 2021, while Seacobeck, the future home of the College of Education, will be completed in late fall of 2021.
“[COVID-19] made it challenging for sure,” said Jay Sullivan, project manager of the Virginia Hall renovation.“[It affected] onsite manpower and caused manufacturing delays because of product and material demand and cost.”
Despite this, the timeline for the renovation was not largely altered. The Virginia Hall renovation began February of 2020 and was expected to take 16 months to complete, finishing in the early summer. According to Sullivan, construction on Virginia will be substantially completed on May 26 of this year. Though COVID-19 caused some challenges, the project will be completed only two weeks behind its original scheduled date.
“[There have been] no major setbacks. There have been many small delays and setbacks because of various reasons throughout the project but I feel good with only a two-week delay in substantial completion,” said Sullivan.
The building will have new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems as well as an elevator. Original historical details such as the cast-iron staircases, terrazzo floors and door trims will be preserved. The double rooms, open spaces and large hallways will be retained.
While Virginia Hall is being updated structurally with an aim of preserving historic details, Seacobeck is undergoing major internal renovation to transform the building into a new home for the College of Education.
Renovation on Seacobeck has been pushed back more than Virginia Hall. According to Dr. Pete Kelly, Dean of the College of Education, construction on Seacobeck will now finish in late November of 2021. Originally, classes were to start in Seacobeck in the fall of 2021. Construction was halted due to a shortage of funds resulting from market escalation. Classes will be offered at Seacobeck starting in the spring of 2022.
“There have been a series of things that have slowed progress on the Seacobeck renovation,” said Kelly. “The original plan was for the renovation to be completed to allow for move in during the summer of 2021 and to start classes in the fall. There have been a number of delays that have pushed substantial completion back to late November 2021.”
Among the setbacks, asbestos was found in the building.
“During the Trump administration, the use of tariffs caused slow downs in our ability to purchase the materials needed for the renovation. Later in the renovation, asbestos, a mineral once used in construction projects that is now a known carcinogen, was discovered and had to be removed. My understanding is that the weather has also caused some delays,” said Kelly.
Construction on Seacobeck was originally supposed to take 18 months and provide a space for students and faculty in the College of Education. Before renovation, the building had been the campus dining hall for over 80 years, though the University Center became the campus dining hall in 2016. A number of students will not have the chance to use Seacobeck during their time at Mary Washington.
Thomas Bascom, a senior history major in the College of Education, had most of his classes in James Farmer Hall, the current home of the College of Education..
“It’s been good without it, but I really wish I had been able to use it. I heard [the College of Education] talking about what they were doing, and it was okay, but they described all these great things they were going to have in Seacobeck and I don’t think I’ll get to see it,” he said.
Students will get to use the building starting in 2022, and many new facilities will be available. Like Virginia Hall, many historic aspects of the building will be maintained, particularly involving the exterior of Seacobeck. Inside will be new classrooms, an open forum area in the center of the building for students and teachers to work together and a makerspace for students to learn and use innovative instructional technologies.
Kelly notes that the building will also retain certain aspects of the historically significant Dome Room, such as the fireplace and plaster work.
“I look forward to soon hosting walk-throughs of the building with students and others to help get people excited for the possibilities in our new home,” he said. “The pandemic has been so difficult for so many, it is good to have something positive to focus on.”