Amherst Magazine

College Row
Simcoke LibraryThe Simcoke Library in the new Morris Pratt is soaked with light.

Not your parents’ dorm

Anyone who remembers the old Morris Pratt will be surprised to hear that Caitlin McDermott-Murphy ’09 actually chose to live there this year. And yes, she’d heard about the creepy hallways. She’d also heard the rumor (unconfirmed) that the original architect had designed insane asylums. Yet McDermott-Murphy took her chances. Over the summer workers finished renovating the dormitory, straightening the confusing corridors and clustering bedrooms around open study areas with natural light. Lucky for McDermott-Murphy, the end result bears absolutely no resemblance to an insane asylum.

McDermott-Murphy is in a large one-room double with three windows and light hardwood floors. The common
room is homey, she says, with a fireplace and chandelier. The basement, once dungeon-like, is now living space.

The renovation was part of the implementation of the Residential Master Plan, a massive project that will update dormitories and eventually bring all first-year housing onto the Main Quadrangle. Workers spent the summer updating Morrow dormitory as well as Morris Pratt. Both buildings now have wireless Internet access and lounges on each floor, as well as new, modern bathrooms. In Morrow, there is now student office space in the basement. The project also included more mundane improvements: updated (and energy efficient) mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Both buildings
are now fully wheelchair accessible.

Throughout the summer, work also continued on a project to turn Charles Pratt into a first-year dormitory. Charles Pratt is the former home of the geology department and the natural history collection, which this past year were moved into the new Earth Sciences and Museum of Natural History Building. Inside Charles Pratt, the ceiling of the original 1883 building has been removed to reveal stained-glass windows and hand-carved beams that support a vaulted ceiling. The new dorm will retain the beams and vaulted space. Also, the 1912 addition to the building has been demolished. The new dorm, which will include basement social space large enough for the entire first-year class, is scheduled to open next summer. It will house around 120 students.

Other summer projects included landscaping work around the War Memorial and the start of renovations to two other dorms: Hamilton and Porter houses. In addition, Jim Brassord, director of facilities planning and management, spent the summer looking ahead, evaluating how best to update the social dorms built in the 1960s. “That,” he says, “is on the horizon.”

Also in the works is a plan to modernize the 1960s Merrill Science Center, whose utility infrastructure, according to Brassord, is nearing the end of its design life. The scientists who work in the building need more precise climate and humidity control for their research. Brassord says that such a construction project could begin in around three years.

Meanwhile, life is good for the students in Morris Pratt, who describe their fellow residents as outgoing but not overly boisterous. Alexa Princi ’09 lives in one of the especially spacious corner rooms. She’s pleased with the cavernous closets, and that the wood floors are so easy to clean.

Next: Laura Yerkovich ’80 joins Board of Trustees »