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February 6, 2006

Peikoff Alumni House renovation underway

After more than 20 years, the Peikoff Alumni House is undergoing another major renovation. The renovation goal is to make structural and mechanical repairs and undertake some maintenance work (i.e., painting). While doing this, the goal is to recapture the feel when “Ole Jim” was built in 1881.

The original estimate for the project was $1.7 million. The GUAA committed $1.2 million from the Alumni House Maintenance Fund, and the University committed $500,000 from the deferred maintenance budget. However, due to increases in the costs of materials and labor, the project’s cost increased to at least $2.5 million. However, the University’s additional fees have been defrayed from proceeds from the Sorenson VRS service on campus.

A concerted effort is being made to preserve the integrity of the original “Ole Jim.” Although the pool won’t be reinstalled, beams and other material supporting the second floor will be exposed in the 14-foot, first-floor ceiling. A missing support post will also be replaced. Also, the conference room on the first floor will be bigger and rectangular.

We will install wood flooring on the second floor. We will vastly improve the lighting system, the ventilation will be better, and we will install water sprinklers. We will relocate the bar next to the elevator. There will be lights on the main stairway from the first to the second floor. The paint used on the second-floor walls will be brighter. Other changes to be made in the building include:

  • Replacing the entire HVAC system;
  • Upgrading plumbing and electrical systems;
  • Re-caulking every brick by hand;
  • Repainting the entire building;
  • Repairing exterior structural problems (for example, a wood column at one corner of the building is decaying due to water damage and is shrinking, tilting the building’s upper portion).

The exterior renovation includes restoring the building’s façade and east entry porch, incorporating a more historically accurate rail for the wheelchair access ramp and historic wooden window frames and leaded-glass windows, and repair or replacing damaged or missing slate roofing. Currently, the Alumni Relations staff is housed in the Edward Miner Gallaudet Memorial Building, right across the street from the Alumni House.

June 6, 2006

It has been a while since the announcement was made about renovating the Peikoff Alumni House (“Ole Jim”). This renovation has received a lot of attention from our alumni and the community, and it gives me great pleasure to share this update with you.

As most renovation architects do, ours prepared us to face the unknown as the walls in “Ole Jim” were removed and intensive inspections took place. As unexpected situations surfaced, we investigated solutions and moved forward in the best interest of the building. With every decision, we take into consideration the design, schedule, and cost impact.

The renovation process is more complex than constructing a new building. For example, we discovered that the original foundation could not support the expanded room in the basement for air conditioning and heating. The original 1881 blueprint did not show much about the foundation. We later found out that one part of the foundation is three feet deep; elsewhere, it is five feet deep. Concrete is being added under the existing foundation. The process takes more than a month to complete as it has to be done area by area. The construction crew is forced to dig under the foundation and pour concrete, and then the concrete must cure before we can do the next section. This will continue until the entire foundation is reinforced.

Recently, we experienced another major issue. Upon inspection, we found that the outside wood siding on the upper level is dry and warped and is generally in poor condition. It is not cost-effective to patch the existing siding. Therefore, we decided to replace ALL external siding. Also, the structural beams that support the roof are dry and rotten and will need replacement. We will almost wholly redo the upper level. Currently, crews are working on the upper level on the northeast side of the building. They have removed the internal and external wood siding, and you can see inside the upper level from outside. It is bare inside.

The old interior walls and air ducts on the first floor have been removed. Seven original wooden posts from the post and beam construction are still in place. One post has been replaced (it had been removed to make space for the conference room during the 1982 renovation). The replacement post is steel wrapped in wood so that it appears similar to the original ones from the 19th century. Seventy-five percent of the electrical work on the first floor has been completed.

When we removed the first-floor concrete, we had the opportunity to see a portion of the famous swimming pool. What a pleasant surprise that was! The construction crew dug in one area and revealed four layers of brick and concrete. We will leave open a three-foot by three-foot area of the pool, and glass will be placed on the floor to showcase the pool (without water, of course) when the restoration is completed.

The renovation is undergoing a critical phase. Thus, status meetings led by Gallaudet University Architect Mickey Fields, who is deaf, are conducted weekly. We remain confident that the renovated “Ole Jim” will be a place where our alumni and the Gallaudet community can be extremely proud to visit and call home. It remains our goal to have the building ready in time for the 2006 Homecoming on the weekend of October 21.

November 8, 2006

In the June 2006 edition of the alumni e-newsletter, we said that it remained our goal to have the Peikoff Alumni House (“Ole Jim”) ready in time for the 2006 Homecoming on the weekend of October 21. How naïve we thought that we had foreseen all major issues!

The main cause for the delay is the condition of the wood and exterior facades, which are dry rotten. The repair was extensive as it involved details such as connections, types of materials, method of shoring, and structural analysis.

With the wood in the front of the building replaced and painted, we are getting a taste of what it will look like when it is completed. It looks sharp and new. We realize that there is a long way to go. Contractors are now working on one side and have just begun doing the backside. They have not started work on one side. They also have not begun the replacement of mortar on the lower level of the building. The buzz on the campus is that it is going to be beautiful.

Workers are racing against the weather; the paint’s warranty is void when the temperature is below 35 degrees. With the winter coming, we are looking for ways to keep the building (inside and outside) warm. One option is to cover the painted sections of the building with a tarp and keep them above 35 degrees with heat blowers.

The interior work will begin at full steam after the exterior work is complete. The wooden stairway between the first and second floors was found to be rotten and will be replaced. Due to building codes, the stairway must be re-designed, and we will lose the short steps where it was.

March 8, 2007

At the beginning, the University was warned that it would be difficult to determine the scope of work and date of completion for a significant renovation of a building as old as the Peikoff Alumni House (“Ole Jim”). This continues to be true.

The exterior wood on the “bowling alley” side (north, facing the Kellogg Conference Hotel) of the building was dry and rotten. Instead of replacing the wood piece by piece, it was more cost-effective to rebuild it with new exterior wood. This impacted other phases of the renovation that were dependent on the completion of the “bowling alley.”

The current schedule calls for the completion of the renovation in May. Here is what has been done since the last report:

  • Stained-glass windows are back from Iowa, where they were refitted and cleaned
  • Exterior painting on the east, south, and west sides of the upper level is done
  • Windows on the east, south, and west sides of the lower level are installed
  • Pipes for water sprinklers in the upper level are in place
  • Insulation and painting of the attic in the upper level is completed
  • Heating and air conditioning ducts are all in place

An effort was made to restore the exterior colors to what they were when “Ole Jim” was built in 1881. After some research, it was concluded that the original colors were brick red and cream with a touch of green for the window frames. The east (front) side is partially painted. It looks sharp, although a lot of things remain to be done.

There will be a new stairway from the first to the second floor because the existing stairway was deemed unsafe. Due to building codes, the design will be different. Instead of making curves at each corner, which caused some steps to be very short, all the steps will be equal size and straight, with 90-degree turns at the corners. The University would like to have kept the original design but understood that it did not have a choice due to liability reasons and new building codes. When it gets warmer, we will replace the mortar between bricks in the lower level.

July 16, 2007

The $6 million project, funded by the University and the Gallaudet University Alumni Association’s (GUAA) Alumni House Maintenance Fund, was not without its difficulties and unexpected turns–all internal and external wood siding as well as structural beams supporting the roof had to be replaced, which delayed completion of the project, and new building codes required that the stairway from the first to the second floor had to be rebuilt. But alumni who return to their alma mater will not be disappointed with the finished product.

This assessment can be verified by those who use “Ole Jim” daily, the staff in the Office of Alumni Relations. The staff will start moving into their refurbished offices on July 24 after working in temporary quarters in the EMG Building during the renovation. Their first opportunity to take a close look at the interior renovations came on June 1 at a retirement party for Rebecca (“Bobbie”) Boswell, a fitting tribute to the longtime administrative secretary for Alumni Relations who spent her entire career working in “Ole Jim.” Party attendees were awed by the makeovers at this special occasion.

“The finished product gave me goosebumps as I went inside and saw the GUAA logo on the carpet and the beautiful wooden stairs,” recalled Daphne Cox, ’82, associate director of Alumni Relations. She feels that alumni and others who use the building will benefit from the improved lighting, the conference room-which will seat twice as many people as the previous room—and new technology that will enhance meetings and workshops. She also anticipates that alumni will get a big thrill out of seeing the three-foot by three-foot glassed-in area on the first floor, showcasing a section of “Ole Jim’s” famous swimming pool. A construction crew unearthed this pool during excavation work for the foundation repairs.

Sherry Duhon, ’77, assistant director of Alumni Relations, believes alumni who return to their alma mater and drop by “Ole Jim” will be so thrilled by what they see, especially the look of the upper level. For those who may be afraid that the second floor has changed too much, Duhon added that they will be “relieved to see the ‘chimney’ with names is still there.”

” ‘Ole Jim’ is B E A U T I F U L !! WOW!” wrote Dr. Richard Meisegeier, G-’67. The alumni house was named in honor of Meisegeier’s wife, Joyce’s, parents, David and Pauline “Polly” Peikoff, for their decades of tireless work on behalf of alumni-the most notable being the driving force behind the fundraising effort for the 1982 renovation of “Ole Jim.” “This will be a fantastic place to hold our Saturday evening dinner for the M.A. graduate-level Classes of 1967 and 1968 members in August,” said Meisegeier.

Loraine DiPietro, ’68, who is assisting him with the reunion, added, “There is something special about having [the event] on campus and getting to use the Alumni House. When we were students, “Ole Jim” wasn’t a place you wanted to be in!”

Alumni and other members of the Gallaudet community will have the opportunity to celebrate this meticulous facelift to a cherished icon of Gallaudet culture and tradition at a grand re-opening that will take place during this year’s Homecoming weekend.

Sam Sonnenstrahl, ’79 & G-’84, Alumni Relations director and GUAA executive director, credited the project’s success to the many people on campus who collaborated to give their time, energy, and talent. He gave a special note of thanks to Mickey Fields, Director of Facilities and University Architect, for the work he did for the project.

“Often, I wonder what would have happened to the building if it was not for the renovation,” Sonnenstrahl mused. If the renovation had not taken place, he said, “We would have seen the effects of the structure’s deterioration within a few years. Now, we can say it is structurally sound and will be this way for many more years.”

Sonnenstrahl also praised Patner Construction, Inc. for hiring deaf workers for the project. He noted, “It is probably the first major renovation project on campus which had the commitment from the general contractor in hiring deaf people.”

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