The University announced the beginning of a renovation to the Department of History’s facilities that will connect the department’s two buildings, Sharpe House and Peter Green House.
The renovation — which will add new offices, graduate student spaces and one classroom — is expected to be completed by the 2019-2020 academic year, according to Robert Self, the chair of the department. The renovation will also make the department accessible for community members with physical disabilities through changes such as the installation of an elevator, Self said.
During the renovations, Norwood House and Arnold Laboratory will house the Department of History.
“The History concentration is one of the larger concentrations at Brown, and it’s definitely been a struggle developing that community feel over the last couple of years,” said Quinton Huang ’19, a coordinator for the History Departmental Undergraduate Group. The location of the department in two different buildings created a scattered environment over the last few years, Huang added.
“The History DUG for the past two or three years has been talking about ways to create more common and shared spaces for people interested in history,” similar to the way the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs provides international relations, public policy, development studies and other concentrations a collective space, Huang said. He anticipates a more cohesive community for history concentrators as a result of the renovations.
“It’s going to be tremendous,” Self said. “It will unify the buildings, unify the faculty and the students. It will be accessible; it will be renovated. In every respect, it’s a terrific and promising development for the department.”
The plan to connect Sharpe House and Peter Green House was made possible by the relocation of Sharpe House in December, Self said. The house was moved from its previous location at 130 – 132 Angell Street to a new location on Brown Street adjacent to the Peter Green House, making space for the planned new Performing Arts Center between Olive and Angell streets, he added.
The Performing Arts Center’s original location would have resulted in the demolition of four buildings, including the Urban Environmental Lab, and the relocation of a fifth, The Herald previously reported. “The plan to relocate Sharpe House was developed early in 2018 after the University considered the community feedback” on the center’s intended location, wrote Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark in an email to The Herald.
When planning major projects, “We consider carefully Brown’s dedication to preservation,” Clark added. “Brown’s campus planning and facilities teams were confident that Sharpe House could be moved, so it was a matter of determining a specific plan and relocation site that would not only free the site, but simultaneously benefit the History department.”
Rachel Robinson, director of preservation at the Providence Preservation Society, said she felt “pleased when (the University) went back to the drawing board and came up with another solution to find space for a performing arts center.”
“We see the University as an important steward of historic buildings in the College Hill National Register District,” Robinson said. “Obviously, we take interest in the demolition of historical and significant buildings from a preservation standpoint and an environmental standpoint, as well. We don’t want the unnecessary demolition of buildings that are useful and contribute to the city.”
While the Preservation Society still prefers the preservation of historic buildings — such as Peter Green House and Sharpe House — in their original form, they “understand that buildings need to be useful and up to code so that we can adaptively reuse them for our modern purposes,” she added.