Emery Hall

Central State University and LWC Incorporatedfor the preservation and rehabilitation of EmeryHall, at Central State University

Wilberforce University is nationally significant as the first historically black college in the nation, founded in 1956. In the 1970s Wilberforce moved to a new campus and the original campus became part of Central State University.  

Emery Hall, designed by Frank Packard, and constructed in 1913 using student labor, exemplifies the symmetrical massing and fenestration of Colonial Revival style architecture. It served as a women’s dormitory, most recently in the late 1970’s, and had been largely vacant ever since. When the decision was made by Central State University to seek funding to preserve and rehabilitate the building a grant was secured from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Fund, which made this project possible.

Given the length of time the building was vacant, the damage to both the interior and exterior was severe. None of its systems were intact, including electrical, mechanical and plumbing. The 1st phase of work was actually termed “deforestation” given the amount of vegetation that needed to be removed!

Following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, careful work was undertaken on Emery Hall to completely overhaul all aspects of the building. Existing materials and features were repaired if possible or replaced in-kind. The original aesthetics and craftsmanship were respected, while at the same time adaptations were made to accommodate modern technology and conveniences.  

Examples of the work include salvaging and restoring the building’s wood windows and doors, and adding several new ones to match as needed. The warped wood floors were taken up and re-used as much as possible, or replaced as needed. In order to facilitate accessibility to the building, an inconspicuous elevator was added on the parking lot side negating the need for a ramp.

Modern mechanicals and electrical work was kept well concealed in closets and behind walls. Emery now houses a dining area, meeting rooms, and classrooms for students in the Hospitality Management program and provides overnight accommodations for parents and visitors. These very compatible uses required no alteration to the room layouts or circulation patterns.

The Emery Hall project exemplifies application of the Secretary’s Standards while meeting building code requirements and functional requirements of modern buildings. Congratulations to Central State University, and LWC Incorporated on the meticulous rehabilitation of Emery Hall and the university’s continued commitment to preserving its history through historic preservation.

Click here to return to the list of 2013 State Historic Preservation Office Award recipients.

Click here  for a list of past State Historic Preservation Office Award recipients.