March 12, 2012

The big reveal, Homewood-style

Wolman Hall gets a top-notch upgrade, thanks to Parents Fund

Earlier this month, Wolman Hall residents were given the first glimpse of the building’s recently completed renovation. The “oohs” and “ahhs” came fast and furious.

The 92-year-old apartment building (once home to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda) has been outfitted with a slew of upgrades, new spaces and multimedia knickknacks to make the residence hall more homey and livelier.

On March 1, Housing and Dining Services pulled back the curtain to the recently completed $2.4 million renovation of the university-owned undergraduate residence building, located on North Charles Street.

The renovation project, which began in October, focused on reuse of the building’s former dining facility, known as Wolman Station, which had been used mostly for storage or left empty in recent years.  The project also included work on the remainder of the first floor and the terrace level of the building.

Out of the spaces, the university created a 44-seat movie theater, a common kitchen, a multipurpose room, a fitness room, two lounges, a game room, study space and a small computer room.

Renovation crews also expanded the size of the building’s lobby and added a vestibule to the front entrance to enhance energy efficiency.

The work was made possible by a gift from the Parents Fund, which supports Homewood student-life programs and activities.

Carol Mohr, senior director of Housing and Dining Services, said that the renovation will have a profound impact on life for the building’s residents.

“We are grateful for the generosity of the Parents Fund and excited to have this fabulous new space,” Mohr said. “It really is beautiful. All these improvements have created a terrific environment for our residents. Students will now have updated and contemporary new spaces to meet, study, exercise and even cook.”

The new fitness room has treadmills, elliptical machines, recumbent bikes and other exercise equipment.

The movie theater is outfitted with tiered seating, cable TV and a projection screen that is capable of playing student DVDs, Blu-rays or computer presentations.

The game room has couches and large flat-panel TVs that students can hook up to gaming consoles, either their own or ones provided by the Office of Residential Life.

Two new lounges feature comfortable furniture, tables and chairs so that students can meet, study or just read a book there.

The kitchen, similar to the one in the Charles Commons residence, has a countertop stove, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher and ample counter space. “Students really wanted space for cooking, so we were sure to include a community kitchen in the design,” Mohr said. “They can create a snack or meal as a group, or simply bake a pan of brownies whenever they want.”

Shaun Grahe, assistant director of residential life for Wolman Hall, said that the student response has been enthusiastic.

“Students were using the kitchen literally minutes after it opened. The study room has been constantly packed, and they are already using all the other spaces,” he said. “The students are really excited. The response has been great.”

Wolman Hall accommodates up to 483 residents.

The renovation was designed by Read and Company Architects, which has done a number of projects for Johns Hopkins, including the renovation of the Johns Hopkins University Press building, the Levering Hall dining facility and the Sheldon Hall Auditorium at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Wolman Hall, once known as the Cambridge Arms Apartments, was built in 1920. The Fitzgeralds lived here for several years in the mid-1930s.

The university purchased the building in 1966 and named it in honor of Abel Wolman, a professor of sanitary engineering at Johns Hopkins for eight decades. Wolman famously developed the formula used in chlorinating water supplies, served as an adviser on water matters to the governments of some 50 countries and designed the water systems of many American cities, including Baltimore and New York.

The university renovated Wolman Hall in 1990–91, increasing the building’s capacity from 220 students to nearly 500.

While the renovation is mostly done, it’s not complete. During spring break, crews will replace the building’s front doors, some windows and a ceiling.