It’s likely that grand ideas were always circulating in Brown Ayres’ mind as he strode the University of campus paths during his tenure as 12th president from 1904 until his death in 1919. When he took the helm of the school, it was already more than 100 years old. To help modernize his university, thus bringing it in line with its newly acquired national identity as a multidisciplinary research and education institution, Brown Ayres wanted to build a grand structure at the top of The Hill—the college’s geographic focal point—that would replace three smaller structures already there. Though Brown Ayres would not live to see the culmination of his plans, his dream was realized in Ayres Hall, a neo-Gothic behemoth made from brick and mortar—and ¾-inch beech wood floors—that served as a physical projection of educational prowess.
In recent years, though, it was Ayres Hall that was deemed antiquated. In pockets throughout the entire building, the beech flooring bore decades of damage from spilled paint, plaster and water, in addition to wear from the foot traffic of thousands of students. An ancient HVAC system left the hall
too hot and stifling for modern sensibilities. Classrooms were short on conveniently placed outlets, leaving teachers in a lurch when they needed to use AV equipment. The building was missing elevators, as well, and the fourth floor—”the tower”—had been closed since the 1970s by order of the fire marshal for being out of code. Ayres Hall was badly in need of a renovation.
As part of a comprehensive $23 million renovation project, was the renovation of the wood floors throughout the 100,000-square-foot building. Other interior renovations included lowering ceilings to accommodate utilities, enclosing stairways to conform with fire codes, expanding and upgrading bathrooms, upgrading lighting with energy-saving features, relocating door handles to conform with ADA requirements, and a plethora of other upgrades, both large and small. On the façade, the hall’s original red tile roof was removed and reinstalled, four clocks originally left out of the building due to lack of funds were added, and the original window trim was refurbished, among other improvements.
Renovating an old educational building is nothing new. “I found that the majority of classrooms had original wood flooring that was covered with carpet or vinyl over the years. “I put a proposal together insisting they refurbish the wood flooring in lieu of tearing out and replacing it with concrete or some other floor covering. Plus, we found that, overall, it was cheaper to renovate the existing hardwood.