Alumni eNewsletter: Update on Renovation of the Peikoff Alumni House (Ole Jim) (Archives)

Photo: graffiti on chimney and exposed wood on the wall.
Interior wood pieces removed from the wall next to the well-known graffitied chimney. The interior wood wall was removed due to bad wood.
Photo: Bulldozer at work removing bricks from the north side of the building exterior.
Bulldozer at work removing bricks from the north side of the building.
Photo: view of outside and front of the building.
Exterior wall wood pieces being removed from the northeast corner of the building.
Photo: inside view of debris in old pool.
Cement floor becomes debris filling up the old swimming pool.
Photo: exposed wall of old swimming pool
A piece of the old swimming pool wall exposed.

Submitted by Sam Sonnenstrahl, ’79 & G-‘84

It has been a while since the announcement was made about the renovation of the Peikoff Alumni House ("Ole Jim"). This renovation has received a lot of attention from our alumni and the community, and it gives me great pleasure to share this update with you.

As most renovation architects do, ours prepared us to face the unknown as the walls in "Ole Jim" were removed and intensive inspections took place. As unexpected situations surfaced, we investigated solutions and moved forward in the best interest of the building. With every decision, we take into consideration the design, schedule, and cost impact.

The renovation process is more complex than constructing a new building. For example, it was discovered that the original foundation could not support the expanded room in the basement for air conditioning and heating. The original 1881 blueprint did not show much about the foundation. We later found out that one part of the foundation is three feet deep and elsewhere it is five feet deep. Concrete is being added under the existing foundation. The process takes more than a month to complete as it has to be done area by area. The construction crew is forced to dig under the foundation and pour concrete, and then the concrete must cure before the next section can be done. This will continue until the entire foundation is reinforced.

Recently we experienced another major issue. Upon inspection, it was found that the outside wood siding on the upper level is dry and warped and is generally in poor condition. It is not cost effective to patch the existing siding. Therefore, the decision was made to replace ALL external siding. Also, the structural beams which support roof are dry and rotten and will need to be replaced.

The upper level will be almost completely redone. Currently, crews are working on the upper level on the northeast side of the building. They have removed the internal and external wood siding, and you are able to see inside the upper level from outside. It is bare inside.

The old interior walls and air ducts on the first floor have been removed. Seven original wooden posts from the post and beam construction are still in place. One post has been replaced (it had been removed to make space for the conference room during the 1982 renovation). The replacement post is steel wrapped in wood so that it appears similar to the original ones from the 19th century. Seventy-five percent of the electrical work on the first floor has been completed.

When the first floor concrete was removed, we had the opportunity to see a portion of the famous swimming pool. What a pleasant surprise that was! The construction crew dug in one area and revealed four layers of brick and concrete. We will leave open a three- foot by three-foot area of the pool and glass will be placed in the floor to showcase the pool (without water, of course) when the restoration is completed.

The renovation is undergoing a critical phase. Because of this, status meetings led by Gallaudet University Architect Mickey Fields, who is deaf, are conducted on a weekly basis.

We remain confident that the renovated "Ole Jim" will be a place where our alumni and the Gallaudet community can be extremely proud to visit and call home. It remains our goal to have the building ready in time for the 2006 Homecoming on the weekend of October 21.

Posted: 8 Jun 2006

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