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Stuart Hall Gets an Overhaul

The interior renovation and exterior restoration brings back the building's original glory
Meta Stuart Hall Roof
Stuart Hall's new roof restores the original design of architect William Appleton Potter. (Photo by Alcove Media & Irwin & Leighton, Inc.)

To the novice eye, Stuart Hall may look like nothing has changed since 1876. Yet the project to restore this beloved classroom building took years of study and careful craftsmanship to make the finished product reflect the architect’s original design.

In 2016, the Seminary began the process of planning a complete exterior renovation of Stuart Hall. It started with a comprehensive analysis of the exterior completed in partnership with Historic Building Architects, a Trenton-based preservation firm. They collected samples of the stone and slate, employed ground-penetrating radar to find unwanted moisture, and examined every inch of the building from its original wooden 1880s-era windows to its 1980s-era cooling and heating systems.

In 2019, after three years of study, construction began on Stuart Hall. Updates included a complete rebuild of the gutter system with custom painted copper materials; revamped water management systems that utilize the building’s original brick cisterns; the restoration of ornamental stone finials, medallions, and corbels; the rebuilding of the North Porch using as much original materials as possible; the addition of new sidewalks along the exterior; and the cleaning, repointing, and retooling of existing stones and replacement of those that were defective.

As far as materials go, it’s not an exaggeration to say that no stone was left unturned. The Seminary’s construction team, led by German Martinez, and Historic Building Architects researched the quarries that sold the building’s original slate roof and white stones and, amazingly, they were not only still in business but they were still selling the same materials used in the original construction of Stuart Hall. Updates to the roof and building feature the exact same slate and stones that architect William Appleton Potter would have used when he planned Stuart Hall in the late 1800s. “Stuart Hall is a beautiful gothic structure highly regarded in Princeton and the historical Mercer Hill district,” says Martinez, and the restoration work brings Potter’s vision for the building to life.

While the building is one of the campus’ architectural gems, it also functions as a central location of learning, and the classrooms were upgraded with modern comforts for students and faculty. Inside, Stuart Hall got a comprehensive refresh complete with new paint, carpet, and classroom furniture, HVAC updates, bathroom renovations, and enhanced Wi-Fi and classroom technology.

The Seminary worked with IRN, The Reuse Network, to give new life to the classroom furniture that had previously served seminarians in Stuart Hall. More than 500 chair desks were donated to IRN, which then matched the donations to organizations in need of school equipment in Nouakchott, Mauritania and Douala, Cameroon.

If you ask Denis Castañón, associate vice president of operations, this extensive renovation and restoration is a testament to the collaboration of departments across the Seminary, including Academic Affairs, IT, Security, Auxiliary Services, and Facilities. And the result is a triumph. In November, Historic Building Architects received the American Institute of Architects New Jersey chapter’s Honor Award for historic preservation, the highest award for this work in the state.

“The exterior reflects the great history of Princeton Seminary and the interior meets the needs of the twenty-first century learner,” Castañón says. “It’s exciting to see students learning in this historic building restored to its original splendor.”

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

PhD Student

Isaac Kim, Class of 2015

“One of the biggest lessons I learned was how to be charitable to views other than my own. Christian charity was shown to me, not just in the readings for class, but from the professors, and the Seminary community.”