Campus News

September 16, 2011

Seney Hall gets a face-lift

Seney Hall at Oxford

Seney Hall, an icon of the Oxford College campus and, at 130 years, one of Emory's oldest and most recognizable buildings, is undergoing a major exterior renovation.

Oxford administrators decided earlier this year to embark on the project when a building inspection revealed that rainwater infiltration from leaking gutters on the roof had resulted in damage that could not be seen from the ground.

The complicated Victorian roof needed structural work, new gutters and replacement of much of the building's fascia and soffit. A new roof surface was needed as well. Asphalt tiles are being replaced with slate, which is more aesthetic and more authentic to the original design.

Completion of the $1.1 million project is expected in late winter.

Seney Hall was built in 1881 with money donated to Emory College by George Seney, a Methodist layman from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Seney had read a Thanksgiving sermon delivered by Emory President Atticus Haygood in 1880, in which he called upon his fellow Southerners to be reconciled to the rest of the country and turn toward the creation of a new South.

The "New South Sermon," as it came to be called, moved Seney to donate $130,000 to Emory—a major donation for the time. The money paid off the college's debt ($5,000), bolstered its endowment ($75,000) and built Seney Hall at a cost of $50,000.

The last major renovation of the building was completed in the late 1970s. The building was outfitted with an elevator, and the vaulted third floor, which once housed the Emory College Library, was subdivided into a fourth floor.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of that last renovation was the rejuvenation of the red brick exterior, which had become pitted and discolored over the decades. The bricks with the greatest damage were removed, turned around to expose their nearly pristine side, and then repointed. This accounts for the brightness of Seney's exterior walls, despite its age.

One of Seney Hall's most notable uses was in 2008 as the setting for a prank that garnered international media attention. Campus security personnel opened the building one April morning to find a zebra on the third floor.  The striped guest was spirited into Seney the night before by a group of students.

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