Girard College awarded grant from William B. Dietrich Foundation to preserve national landmark Founder’s Hall
Masonry restoration will safeguard the Thomas U. Walter masterpiece
Girard College was recently awarded a generous grant from the William B. Dietrich Foundation, a private foundation that primarily supports architectural and historic preservation in the Philadelphia area.
Girard College, a 1st-12th grade residential school that provides full scholarships to students from under-served communities, is using the grant to support masonry preservation and restoration of Founder’s Hall, a monumental Greek Revival structure and National Historic Landmark designed by renowned architect Thomas U. Walter. Preservation work began in March 2021 and will be completed in September, with Dan Bosin Associates serving as the project management firm, Nan Gutterman, FAIA, FAPT of VITETTA as the preservation architect, and Mara Restoration as the masonry contractor.
“Founder’s Hall is the jewel of our campus,” said Dr. Heather Wathington, president of Girard College. “Preserving this magnificent space and expanding its use for both our students and the larger community is central to our plans for the future in becoming a Campus for the City.”
Stephen Girard, the entrepreneur and philanthropist who established Girard College upon his death in 1831, provided an unprecedented construction budget that attracted America’s finest architects in the first design competition to draw a truly national participation. Walter, who would later serve as the architect of the wings and dome of the U.S. Capitol building, submitted the winning entry.
Built entirely of masonry and cast iron, Founder’s Hall contains 42,000 square feet, divided evenly over three full stories, and it is surrounded by a full Corinthian peristyle. Originally serving as the school’s first classroom, Founder’s Hall now provides first-floor event space and a second-floor museum that interprets collections associated with Stephen Girard, Girard College, and the architecture of the building.
The William B. Dietrich Foundation grant will fund a critical conservation concern: repointing, repairs and cleaning of the full marble entablature located on all four elevations of Founder’s Hall and both pediments, located on the north and south faces of the building. Ensuring that all mortar joints are watertight, replacing eroded stone units and patching cracks will protect structural integrity, and cleaning the marble will showcase the building’s true beauty.
Girard College is currently seeking to make the building and its collections much more widely accessible through both event and museum use, as part of the school’s strategic goal to become The Campus for The City. An interior revitalization plan is set to begin following the exterior preservation efforts.