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Last modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Indiana University to unveil newly renovated Presidents Hall

April 10, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie will join other university officials this afternoon in unveiling the newly restored and renovated Presidents Hall. The new hall represents the first phase of a larger effort to revitalize the academic fabric of the historic center of IU's Bloomington campus known as the "Old Crescent."

Presidents Room Class Room Set-Up

The newly renovated Presidents Hall at IU Bloomington will accommodate academic functions, including guest lectures, symposia and study gatherings.

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In its new configuration, Presidents Hall, located in Franklin Hall and once the university's library reading room, will accommodate regular instruction, guest lectures, symposia, study gatherings and other functions. It is the first space in the Old Crescent that has been redesigned for its original purposes as part of IU Bloomington's Master Plan, the blueprint for the future development of IU's flagship campus.

Approved in 2010, the master plan calls for a return of the iconic buildings that comprise the Old Crescent to academic purposes. Many of these buildings were originally constructed to house libraries, laboratories, classrooms and study halls, but over a period of several decades they were converted to administrative use.

The restoration of Presidents Hall also represents the beginning of the wider renovation of Franklin Hall. Work is also nearing completion on renovations and repurposing in the Student Building, Owen Hall and Alumni Hall.

"These are buildings of enormous historical importance to IU," McRobbie said. "They are a core part of the university's heritage, and it is essential that we make the best possible use of them. The Old Crescent should be among the main academic centers on campus and a vibrant hub of student and academic life and activity, day and night, with all the space and resources in them well used."

Presidents Hall was originally the "Grand Reading Room" of the IU library when it was in Franklin Hall. Through various re-uses, it had become the university's registration center and then eventually fell into disrepair. The renovation project included a complete renovation of the space, new heating, cooling and ventilation systems, lighting and technology infrastructure.

The next phase of this project, expected to commence this month, will improve building accessibility to include ramps, elevators, restrooms and the front entryway.

Earlier this year, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education recommended that the state legislature appropriate $21 million this year specifically for Old Crescent renovations. Renovations of the map room in the Student Building -- a large space that was once home to a swimming pool and later served as the Geography Library -- and historic Alumni Hall in the Indiana Memorial Union are expected to follow.

Presidents Hall will house the official portraits of IU's 17 past presidents, many of which were previously on display in various locations at the Indiana Memorial Union and some not previously displayed. This is the first time in the university's history that the portraits are being displayed together in one location and hung chronologically.

Presidents Room

Presidents Hall brings together IU's presidential portraits in one location for the first time in the university's history.

Print-Quality Photo

Bringing IU's presidential portraits together in one location highlights their importance as works of art that document an important component of the university's history, McRobbie said. It also better showcases the 11 artists who painted the portraits, including renowned Indiana painter T.C. Steele, whose subjects included IU presidents Andrew Wylie, David Starr Jordan, Joseph Swain and William Lowe Bryan.

"Its historic buildings, scholarly atmosphere and natural beauty contribute to making Indiana University's Bloomington campus a unique place," McRobbie said. "The magnificent new Presidents Hall, the first of the 'grand spaces' in the Old Crescent to be restored to its original grandeur, will both reflect IU's core missions of education and research and remind us of the indelible imprints the university's past leaders left on our great university."

The opening ceremony reception takes place at 4 p.m. today at Presidents Hall, with remarks starting at 5 p.m.