Eaton Hall is set to undergo a complete renovation, with preliminary work starting in November and construction beginning in 2023. The academic departments that currently operate out of Eaton have already moved to other locations for the remodel, which is set to be completed by the fall of 2024.
“Eaton Hall is in need of significant updating on a number of fronts,” Senior Director of Capital Programs Ruth Bennett wrote in a statement to the Daily. “The renovation will be a wonderful addition to our academic spaces on campus and will benefit students and faculty alike. The building will be more welcoming, brighter, accessible, energy efficient, and up to date for teaching and learning.”
Eaton Hall was opened in 1908 as the university’s library and remained so until the construction of Tisch Library in 1965. Much of the original architecture — some dating back to 1905 — remains in place today. The building most recently housed the anthropology, classical studies, religion and sociology departments, as well as the Eaton Hall computer lab.
Under the Learning Spaces Planning Committee, a committee that oversees the renovations of Tufts’ classrooms, the Eaton Hall computer lab was upgraded in 2016 to include new furniture, more collaboration spaces and a “Genius Bar” for IT support. Three classrooms in Eaton were also upgraded in 2018, with updates primarily made to the audio-visual technology in the rooms.
Room 202 of Eaton Hall suffered damage in February 2020, when a portion of plaster from the ceiling collapsed into the classroom. Tufts Building Operations noted that the damage did not indicate a lack of structural integrity.
David Proctor, a lecturer in the history and classics departments, had an office in Eaton for 13 years and has been teaching classes in the building for nearly 20 years, with a particular preference for Room 333. He commented on Eaton’s history and the numerous renovation projects it has undergone over the years.
“For years there have been efforts to just fix what was wrong at the moment, where what was really needed was what’s happening now, which is a massive overhaul to refresh and renew and take some of the endemic problems like the roof and really fix them once and for all,” Proctor said.
The renovation has a number of goals, including “[furthering] the university’s sustainability commitments by decreasing energy use intensity” and “[making] the building accessible with the installation of an elevator,” according to Executive Director of Media Relations Patrick Collins.
Bennett noted that the renovation will emphasize collaboration spaces with the aim of “[affording] students and faculty room to interact, collaborate, and do research together.” The updated building will include a two-story collaboration space on the first floor as well as another addition facing the Academic Quad.
As of now, all operations in the building have ceased, with offices and classrooms cleared to allow for construction. Proctor commented on the disruption that the remodel may present.
“Eaton is a core building for classes in the humanities and social sciences and it’s going to be offline for a year, so implicitly that’s going to have some inconveniences here and there,” Proctor said. “But I think certainly the scheduling people in Dowling are doing their absolute best to try to make sure that we all get the classrooms that are going to best fit.”
Proctor also noted that while the renovation is ultimately for the best, he remains sentimental about the old Eaton Hall.
“These things happen and once you’ve been here long enough, you have a little nostalgia for what was; but then, hopefully, whatever the new version of Eaton is will respect the traditions of what that building has represented throughout its time as part of the Tufts classroom contingent,” he said.
Aside from its academic purposes, Eaton Hall facilities are also utilized by a number of groups on campus, including the Tufts children’s theater troupe, Trunk, which has been practicing in Eaton for years. Madeline Porter, a member of Trunk, commented on the group’s connection to the building.
“Previous Trunks … have all loved Eaton,” they said. “We hold our auditions there. We even hold our on-campus shows in Eaton 202. If we can do everything in Eaton, we do.”
Nevertheless, they also recognize the space’s need for revitalization.
“[The renovation] desperately needed to happen but, regardless, it’s sad that we won’t have access to it,” Porter said.