Amherst Magazine

Power to the People

By Peter Rooney

[Buildings] A turn-of-the-century building that once sup­plied power to campus will soon provide much-needed space for dances, meetings, din­ners, movie screenings, art exhibitions, parties and other student activities.

Dubbed the Power House, the brick building on the college’s southeast side will undergo a renovation that will be designed by architects Bruner/Cott (the firm known for designing the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams).

A conceptual sketch by the architects of the soon-to-be-repurposed Power House

“This building is well-suited for all sorts of student activities, for which there is currently little space,” says President Biddy Martin, who has made enhancing student life a priority.

The brick building is distinctive for its high arched windows and open interior and for being designed by the noted architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, who also designed Fayerweather and Chapin Halls and the Mead Art Museum. Currently occupied by the grounds department, the Power House was the college’s first centralized steam plant, housing a coal-fired boiler. It provided power to the campus until the 1960s, when a more modern gas- and oil-fired steam plant was built.

Martin says students will have a central role in imagining how exactly the space will be used. Renovation work, estimated to cost about $2 million, is expected to begin this summer and be completed by spring 2014.