University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 5, No. 4/1996
Recitation Hall renovations restore historic details

     Once home to the library, the Agricultural Experiment
Station and the first men's gymnasium, Recitation Hall,
Recitation Annex and Taylor Hall have been renovated for use by
the Department of Art.
     Located in the historic Old College area of the Newark
campus, Recitation Hall and Recitation Annex are well into their
second century. Their slightly younger companion, Taylor Hall,
dates from 1905. "The renovation of these buildings is part of an
ongoing plan to restore our historic buildings, and there will be
more to come," according to David E. Hollowell, UD executive vice
     Designed in 1891 by the prominent Philadelphia architect
Frank Furness, Recitation Hall was built by Joseph T. Willis in
     In his book, The University of Delaware: A History, John A.
Munroe, H. Rodney Sharp Professor Emeritus of History, wrote:
"Offices, as well as classrooms, were set up in Recitation Hall,
and in a few years the library was moved here-first in 1896, to a
room on the second floor, and then to larger quarters on the
third floor. Commencement exercises (with frock coats or
cutaways, but no caps and gowns yet) and student dances were also
held on the third floor of Recitation Hall, which soon rivaled
Old College as a center of activity."
     Today, the 21,300-square-foot building in the Old College
Historic District has been transformed by architects Moeckel
Carbonell Associates Inc. Completed in June, the renovation
included new mechanical systems, interior partitioning and
exterior upgrades. A new elevator, bathrooms and entrance provide
handicapped access.
     Elements of Furness' original details have been preserved,
particularly on the third floor. Furness designed cusped brackets
(steel arches) to support the mansard roof. The brackets perform
their function so well that the architects were able to remove
interior walls that had been added over the years and restore the
large studios that Furness originally designed. The massive beams
he had installed proved to be ideal supports for the air handling
systems recently installed.
      Home to the art department since 1960, Recitation Hall
contains critique studios, studio workspace, faculty offices, art
offices, a lighting studio, a department gallery, a lecture room,
a computing facility, a conference room and two large studio
     Martha Carothers, chairperson of the Department of Art, says
Recitation Hall now suits the needs of the department, instead of
faculty members having to use the existing spaces. "What was most
significant for us was working with the architects and seeing how
they were able to use space. They did a good job of assessing our
needs and working within the confines of the buildings,"
Carothers says.
     Recitation Annex, designed by another Philadelphia
architect, Louis Springer, and built in 1887, was the original
Agricultural Experiment Station. At one time, visual
communications was housed there but, more recently, the annex has
provided studio painting space for graduate students. The 3,500-
square-foot building underwent a total redo, Milene Jones,
administrative assistant in the department, says, and it again
provides space for graduate students. Renovations were completed
in June.
     Located behind Old College, Taylor Hall was the original
men's gym at the University. According to Munroe, students in
1927 wanted to improve the existing facility and build a new
pool, the old one being "hardly more than an overgrown bathtub."
A University Student Council campaign raised $50,000 for a
remodeled gym, which included space for bleachers. The pool was
closed during the '70s, and Army R.O.T.C. was housed there.
Later, the Department of Art used Taylor Hall for studio courses.
     Today, the facility houses the painting, drawing,
photography, fibers and illustration sections of the art
department in its 10,400-square-foot space. These disciplines
pose special demands for ventilation and exhaust, making it
logical to house them in one building. Extensive enhancements to
the structure included new electrical, plumbing and sprinkler
systems and an elevator as well as construction of a new
mezzanine and handicapped access. Work was completed in early
     Construction costs for Recitation Hall, the Annex and Taylor
Hall were $5.4 million, with $2.7 million provided by the state
and $2.7 million from the University and private funds.
     Work on these buildings has allowed the Department of Art to
relocate its various sections in a more logical manner and to
group similar functions together, according to Chuck Dobbs, the
UD architectural designer who was directly involved with the
                                              -Gerry Elter