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Renovations to 1726 Locust Street Restore Iconic Elegance

Staff member Nan Alderson has taken care of Curtis buildings for 13 years. She looks ahead at planned renovations to the original building which may be “a tall order.”

Think back to the first time you walked up the steps to 1726 Locust Street, pulled open the heavy doors, and stepped into the Common Room. Were you awestruck at the gleaming wood paneling? Did you catch a glimpse of the elegant Bok Room and the beautiful Blashfield mural on the ceiling? Perhaps you admired the stately paintings on the walls or followed the strains of beautiful music down the marble-floored foyer into Field Concert Hall.

1726 is our flagship, our landmark building where we audition, study, rehearse, perform, celebrate, and enjoy Wednesday Tea. As we undertake the exciting opportunity to preserve and restore its iconic beauty and elegance, we are also making sure we upgrade the infrastructure to meet the needs of a 21st-century institute of higher education and create better conditions for everyone and everything within its beloved walls.

What to expect...

We will remove the steam service, radiators, and window air conditioning units, and a new HVAC system will be installed throughout the building to provide consistent heating, cooling, and humidification. Not only will this create a more comfortable environment for our students, faculty, staff, and guests, it will enable us to better preserve and maintain all our keyboard instruments and the artwork gracing most of the rooms. More energy-efficient lighting will be installed, providing optimum lighting conditions for all the activities that take place in the building and enabling us to be better stewards of our environment by conserving energy and reducing our carbon footprint. And classroom technology will be upgraded and standardized to support our important curricular needs.

We are making important upgrades to our life safety and security systems, as well, adding card readers to separate public areas of the building from private areas, upgrading fire alarms and strobes, installing a public address system for emergency notification, and improving the fire protection system throughout the building. A new elevator, large enough to accommodate a piano (on end) will be installed, and connecting corridors and ramps will be created to enhance accessibility and facilitate easier movement of instruments, equipment, and people among all floors.

Our modernization plan also includes aesthetic improvements. We will remove the glass fire enclosure on the first and second floors to reveal the graceful main staircase and second floor balcony again, and restore the Common Room to its earlier grandeur. Restrooms will receive much-needed renovations. Windows will be replaced, improving comfort and efficiency in studios, practice rooms, and classrooms while maintaining an historically accurate appearance. More aesthetically appropriate fixtures will be integrated with our lighting upgrades.

Fast Facts

  • Adding a new 5-stop service elevator
  • Connecting the upper floors of 1726
  • Adding approximately 1,000 square feet of usable space
  • Removing the outdated fire glass in the common room to restore the entrance of 1726 back to its original splendor
  • Upgrading all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems throughout the building
  • Dramatically improving heating, cooling, ventilation, and humidification
  • Adding new life safety and emergency response systems
  • Replacing the exterior windows on the upper floors
  • Pre-construction work has already begun, and this portion of the 1726 Modernization Project is expected to conclude at the end of 2021.

Looking ahead...

Helping a venerable older building become more accessible, comfortable, and safe while honoring and respecting its history can be a tall order, but we are up to the challenge. There is no more fitting way to celebrate our coming centenary than by ensuring our gracious main building will meet the needs of our Curtis community for decades to come.

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Nan Alderson is the senior director of facility operations at Curtis where she oversees security, maintenance, housekeeping, and dining services. In her 13 years working at Curtis, she has been a key project leader for several construction and renovation projects on campus, and is a steadfast steward of the school’s buildings, ensuring that all members of the community can enjoy their historic charm and utilize their resources safely. When time permits, she enjoys vegan adventure travel in south Asia and Europe.