College to replace Battell with new first-year dorm

By Charlie Keohane

Riley Board
The college plans to build a new first-year dorm on the north end of Battell Beach, much of which was fenced off this year for the rerouting of underground steam pipes.

Battell hall, completed in 1955 and home to more than 250 first years each year, is known for its reputation as the most social first-year dorm, its bathtubs, and its ivy-covered facade. The residential hall, often considered a rite of passage by students, is also infamous for its outdated features and lack of lounges or study rooms. With this in mind, the administration plans to start construction on a new first-year dorm that will eventually replace Battell on the north side of Battell Beach, with plans to break ground as early as September. 

The new Battell will be four stories tall and house up to 284 students, close to half of the typical first-year class. Current designs for the facade of the hall resemble other buildings on campus, and the residence hall’s interior will feature lounges and shared spaces — amenities the current Battell lacks. It will also be built in accordance with principles of universal accessibility, according to David Provost, executive vice president for finance and administration. 

The new Battell was designed with student input, and members of the Student Government Association (SGA) sat in on meetings and shared ideas for dorm improvement. Karina Martir ’24, SGA first-year senator, said that she advocated for more natural light, study spaces and lounge spaces for activities like ping pong tables. Additionally, the college gathered input from Residential Life. 

Once construction begins, Provost estimated that it would take about 18 months to complete, and the earliest students could move into the new Battell would be January 2023. 

Since last summer, much of Battell Beach has been fenced off for the excavation and rerouting of steam pipes. According to Provost some of the recently rerouted steam pipes would be impacted by the construction of the new Battell and would need to be relocated again, but this movement is included in the capital plan and budget. 

The college is working with Voith and Mactavish Architects, a Philadelphia-based firm, and plans to run a fundraising campaign in the future to cover the construction costs. Several architecture students at Middlebury have also worked on the project, and some students will be working as interns this summer to help with the design.

Many students welcome the idea of a new and updated Battell. 

“It could be a lot better, especially compared to the other places on campus,” Julia Pepper ’24, who currently lives in Battell Center, said. “It’s just kind of beaten down, especially when you look at some of the other freshman housing.”

Over the years, Battell has garnered a reputation for being a rite of passage among alumni and current students and a sense of community among students.

“I have met so many of my friends through living in Battell,” Pepper said. “It’s definitely a friendly dorm.”

“When you meet new people, and they ask what hall you live in, and you say Battell, there’s an instant light-hearted comedy about it,” Martir, a resident of Battell South, said. “It’s been cool to connect.” 

Courtesy photo
Battell Hall, completed in 1955, is the oldest of the current first-year dorms.

Provost said Middlebury also plans to construct a new student center in the next 5–10 years as part of the college’s master plan. 

“When I first arrived at Middlebury, I was shocked that there didn’t seem to be a living room of the campus,” Provost said. “It also struck me that many of the student clubs and organizations are scattered throughout the campus, and it creates silos.” 

With this in mind, the college plans to construct a new student center where Proctor dining hall and the tennis courts are currently located. Provost envisions this space as a hub for late-night dining, student organizations, financial aid and registrar offices. 

The college’s master plan also includes the construction of a new art museum where Battell is currently located, which would house pieces from Special Collections and the Middlebury College Museum of Art in Mahaney Arts Center. Provost imagines this being a multifunctional space for classes and art exhibits that students can interact with regardless of major. 

So far, construction plans have only been secured for the new Battell building. To avoid housing issues, the new Battell would need to be completed before the current hall could be torn down.

These upcoming renovations are among a series of construction projects undertaken in the past couple of years. Last year Munroe Hall was renovated, and this upcoming summer, Warner and parts of Voter will undergo construction. This fall, Dana Auditorium will be renovated as well.

Senior News Editor Tony Sjodin contributed reporting.