Update on the Castle Project by Bob Henderson, Head of School
It is remarkable these days to stand down by the Morrison Athletic Center and look up the campus hill at the evolving vista of the Castle. The building was originally sited in the 19th century by the great American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. According to the documents we have from that process, the original owner, Albert Nickerson, working with his extraordinary architect H.H. Richardson, was seeking to reproduce for his own domestic pleasure something of the grandeur of a chateau in the Loire Valley. Whether he accomplished that or not is a matter of opinion, but it is indubitably the case that the Castle remains a profound architectural expression, a powerful metaphor for the enduring strength and values of the school, central to the experience of every Nobles student of every generation. Over the last several months we have witnessed the transformation of the profile of the Castle as the new addition has taken form. As of this writing in late February, it is possible to see and fully grasp the bold step we have taken. I eagerly anticipate the completion of this project over the next six months.
The very good news is that the Castle project remains on time and on budget. This is a credit to the team we have in place overseeing this project, including Nobles Business Manager Steve Ginsberg and our Director of Buildings and Grounds Mike McHugh, as well as our consultants and key trustees. Shawmut Construction has been a great partner in this endeavor so far, as they have been on many projects on this campus.
There are essentially three broad elements to the Castle project. The first is the replacement of major systems in the building, including heat and power. This has required the excavation and reconstruction of the basement of the building, work that has been ongoing since the start of the project. The second is the construction of the new kitchen, servery and dining spaces, and these are the roof lines that have emerged off of the west side of the building. In some ways this is the least complicated part of the project because it is all new construction. You may have noticed the beautiful masonry around the base of the new wing, all done with stone that nearly perfectly matches the original building.
The final part of the project is the thorough renovation of the top four floors of the original Castle. The faculty residents of the building have now moved out, and Shawmut is moving into those spaces to start upgrading and updating, while also turning 11 apartments into 17. Careful study of the building, however, has revealed considerable impending complications for the extensive work we want to do, especially on the first floor in the dining and meetings rooms. We also are installing an elevator, which presents notable structural challenges. Our most recent investigations and planning indicate that we will have great difficulty meeting the late August completion date without incurring significantly greater expenses unless we modify the work schedule. Our plan had been to install a temporary kitchen in the area adjacent to the Bliss Omni and transport food to the Castle through the spring, allowing Shawmut to start in the old kitchen and serving spaces. Now, however, to ensure the schedule and budget, we must turn over the entire building to Shawmut as of March Break.
So this means, despite our best intentions in designing the project, that we will be serving all meals in the Omni through the final quarter of the school year. The first tennis court in the Omni will become a food service and dining area, and we will separate this from the other three courts. Additional safety measures will be put in place so we can move the community up and down the hill for meals. Picnic tables will be set up outside the Omni. And we will be working with student leadership and our food service to create fun and different options and activities to make the experience a positive one. While this was not a preferred development, it is one we will make the most of, so we can deliver the Castle as planned in time for the next school year, giving this iconic structure a new incarnation to serve the school for the next century. Thank you for your patience and support as we work conscientiously to bring this enterprise to full and exciting fruition.