Campus & Community

Partial ceiling collapse at Stoughton Hall spurs inspection

2 min read

All’s well at Stoughton Hall following a partial ceiling collapse last week.

One freshman student suffered minor scratches when a portion of drywall and insulation came tumbling down from above just before noon on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Two others in the room were not hurt. A chair and a lamp were destroyed.

All 128 residents in both Stoughton and adjacent Hollis Hall were evacuated for several hours as a precaution, allowing city and University officials to investigate. A team of structural engineers was brought to the scene to survey the damage and to conduct a full inspection of both buildings to determine if a similar condition existed in other rooms.

The engineers blamed the collapse on “the installation of successive ceiling layers over the years and loss of bond between the nails that secured the original plaster ceiling to the wood ceiling joists.” Both buildings were last renovated in 1993 and 1994. “It was a major renovation — new heating, electric systems, fire sprinklers, new finishings,” according to Michael Lichten, director of the Office of Physical Resources. The renovation included new ceilings on all four floors.

Residents in the lower three floors were allowed back into their rooms on Tuesday evening. All but two fourth-floor residents returned the next day, after supplemental repairs were made to the fourth-floor ceilings. The two freshmen from the damaged room were allowed back in on Thursday, after the ceiling was replaced and the room was repainted.

“We feel very good about the condition [of both buildings] now,” Lichten says. “We followed the engineers specifications, and the city has been in to inspect them.”

The current Stoughton Hall, located in the northwest sector of the Yard, dates to the early 19th century. The original building of the same name, built in 1700, was torn down in 1780 because of damage incurred during the Revolutionary War. Hollis Hall, which is Harvard’s fourth oldest building, was constructed in 1763.