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Renovations Begin on the Historic Cullen Building

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    Adam Alsobrook from the Texas Historical Commission (right) takes photos during a visit to inspect the proposed replacement windows for the Cullen Building.

Iconic building to undergo its first major renovation since the 1970s

Construction workers will be a common sight around Southwestern’s historic Roy and Lillie Cullen Building in the next two years as the building undergoes its first major renovation since the late 1970s. 

The renovation will include repair or replacement of all 467 of the building’s windows. It also will include an upgrade to the building’s mechanical and electrical systems. New restrooms will be built on the second and third floors and the elevator will be improved and enlarged to accommodate persons in wheelchairs. The new elevator will go all the way to the attic, where most of the new HVAC systems will be housed. 

As part of the renovation, the second and third floors of the building will be reconfigured. The second floor will be reconfigured to hold the entire Office of Institutional Advancement, which was previously located on parts of the second and third floors. Most of the third floor will be reconfigured to serve totally as classroom space. Seven classrooms and one conference room will be built, along with a lounge area that will serve as a “learning commons.” The Office of Strategic Planning and Assessment also will move back to the third floor.

During the renovation, contractors will bring back the building’s original wood floors where possible and expose features such as transom windows that were covered in previous renovations. 

The three-story, limestone building was built between 1898 and 1900 and was originally known as the “Admin Building.” The building was constructed in the architectural style known as Richardsonian Romanesque and is considered one of the most distinctive academic structures of this style in the nation. Robert Hyer, the fourth president of Southwestern, conceived of the building after seeing a similar academic building at Harvard University in 1891. The building’s walls are hand-laid stone, and are 18 inches thick. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The first renovation of the building occurred in 1976-1977 and was funded by the Cullen Foundation of Houston. At the rededication ceremony on Oct. 14, 1977, the building was renamed the Roy and Lillie Cullen Building in recognition of the couple’s longtime philanthropy. 

In 2002, Southwestern received a $1 million gift from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education, part of which was used to create an alumni center on the second floor.

All offices on the third floor of the building were vacated in the summer of 2010 in preparation for the latest renovations. Classes were moved out of the building beginning in the Spring 2011 semester. 

The renovation began in January 2011 with the installation of a sample replacement window. Because the building is a recorded Texas landmark, the replacement window needed to be approved by the Texas Historical Commission before the remainder of the windows could be ordered. That approval came in March. The replacement windows will be double-paned and insulated to make them more energy efficient. The six-foot tall windows located in the stairwells will be refurbished instead of replaced. 

Bob Mathis, associate vice president for facilities and campus services, said most of 2011 will be devoted to the window replacement. Interior renovations should start in the summer of 2011. Offices that moved out of the Cullen Building in summer 2010 are expected to move back in by fall 2012.

Longtime Southwestern architects Group Two Architecture of Austin planned the renovation and Skyline Commercial Inc. of Austin received the contract for the window replacement.

Southwestern received a $6 million gift from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education in 2007 to help fund the renovations. A portion of that gift was used to build the Wilhelmina Cullen Admission Center, which opened in 2009.

Mathis said the renovation of the second and third floors and the window replacement is expected to cost about $5 million. The university is still seeking funds to restore the first floor. Long-term plans call for creation of a “heritage gallery” for the 1first floor that will be dedicated to Southwestern’s history as the oldest university in Texas. The first floor of the building will continue to house the President’s Office, the Provost’s Office, the Business Office and Human Resources.

“Of all the buildings at Southwestern, the Cullen Building most embodies our rich heritage,” said President Jake B. Schrum. “We hope this renovation will allow the Cullen Building to bask in its rightful stance, offering beauty, function and inspiration for generations to come.”

To see photos of the ongoing renovation, visit http://www.southwestern.edu/live/galleries/261-cullen-building-renovations-20112012/galleries/index.php