Submitted on Wednesday, 8/6/2014, at 5:10 PM

Power House on East Drive

AMHERST, Mass.—A turn-of-the-century building on the Amherst College campus that once provided power to the campus will be repurposed to provide space on campus for student activities, college officials announced Wednesday.

Dubbed the Power House, the brick building on the college’s east side will undergo a renovation that will be designed by architects Bruner/Cott of Cambridge, Mass., which also designed the MASS MoCA museum in North Adams.

“This building is well suited for all sorts of student activities, for which there is currently little space,” said Amherst College President Biddy Martin, who has made enhancing Student Life a top priority since her arrival on campus in 2011.

Martin said the renovated space would be ideal for events such as dances, a capella rehearsals and other live performances, catered dinners and receptions, student meetings, art exhibits, coffee house evenings, panel discussions or talks, pub nights, outdoor barbecues or picnics, parties and movie screenings.

The brick building is distinctive for its high arched windows, open interior spaces, and for being designed by the noted architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, designers of three other campus buildings – Fayerweather and Chapin Halls and the Mead Art Museum. Currently occupied by the Grounds Department, the Power House served as the College's first centralized steam plant, housing a coal-fired boiler and remained in use as the Power House until the sixties, when a more modern gas- and oil-fired steam plant was built. 

Martin noted that the loft-like space is not adaptable for use on more than one level or for offices or conference spaces, but will serve very well for student activities. Architects have provided some preliminary sketches, based on feasibility studies. Martin said students would be centrally involved in imagining how the space could be used.

Renovation work, estimated to cost about $2 million, is expected to begin this summer and be completed by Spring 2014.

Architectural sketch of the renovated Power House


About Amherst College

Founded in 1821, Amherst is a highly selective, coeducational liberal arts college with 1,800 students from most of the 50 states and more than 30 other countries. Considered one of the nation’s best educational institutions, Amherst awards the B.A. degree in 37 fields of study. Sixty percent of Amherst students receive need-based financial aid.