While the current construction consists only of roofing replacement, officials say any renovation projects on Old East and Old West must exercise caution to preserve the buildings' historic authenticity.
On Jan. 22, construction crews began roof and gutter work on the buildings. Both buildings had new roofs installed during extensive renovations from 1992 to 1993, but already need more repairs.
Larry Herringdine, UNC's assistant director of facilities management, said the renovations will cost $230,000, money that will come from the Department of University Housing.
But the current roof replacement is just one of many construction projects that have been executed on Old East and Old West in past years.
Old East represents a historic landmark not only for the University, but for the nation as well. As the oldest building on any state university campus in the nation, Old East naturally requires attention regarding the preservation of its historic authenticity and appearance.
The windows, for example, were selected to look as authentic as the original windows, Willis said.
"The exterior appearance of the building is maintained as similar as possible to its appearance before," Willis said.
But while outside appearance is emphasized, almost none of the original inside materials remain from the 1700s. During renovations of the early 1990s, workers gutted most of the interior of each building.
Even the outside of Old East looks very different from the building that was completed in 1795. The residence hall originally consisted of two towers and two stories. But in 1822, when Old West was built, a third story was added to Old East, and in 1848, a third tower was added.
Gordon Rutherford, director of facilities planning, said that because Old East is a national historic landmark, all renovations done to it are approved by the State Department of Archives and History.
He said the biggest conflicts between modernizing and preserving are plumbing, heating and air-conditioning and accessibility for the handicapped.
"The people in there want the modern conveniences, but we have to keep in mind historic preservation," Rutherford said.
"Whenever we design a project in the residence halls, we work closely with the students to make sure whatever we're doing reflects the desires and needs of the students."
The students in Old East and Old West say the construction is not bothersome at all, even though they received survival kits consisting of earplugs in case the noise became bothersome.
Senior Old West resident John Clark said the earplugs were a considerate move, but he hasn't needed them.
"There have been no problems here as of yet," he said. "I haven't even thought about it."
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