Building Excellence for over 110 years



James Madison University


Harrisonburg, Virginia


Glave & Holmes Architecture


$20 Million


July 2019

Originally built by Nielsen in 1930, Wilson Hall stands as the face of James Madison University’s iconic Quad. Featured in countless photos and well-known amongst more than just the JMU community, this building will forever be embossed in JMU’s history.  Nearly 90 years after it was first built, Nielsen was hired as Construction Manager to renovate the building to house the university’s History Department.  

Internally, changes were made to complete such a deliberate transformation. From the home of a large auditorium capable of seating nearly 1,400 people to the new residence of the History Department, design changed drastically. The front entrance of the building received the addition of an atrium to the lobby that opened the ceiling up to the second floor. A large majority of windows, as well as auditorium seating, were all removed, refurbished, and then reinstalled; including the large, arched windows perched in the auditorium, too. The flooring, wall finishes, and ceilings were replaced and/or refinished in order to give them a fresher look, and the entire electrical and lighting system was upgraded. Lastly, a structural build out on the fourth floor and attic was needed to establish a mechanical room. New mechanical piping, ductwork, equipment as well as plumbing fixtures were included in the scope of work.

Externally, all of the concrete spandrel panels between the windows, front columns, cupola, and other exterior woodwork features, received new, fresh paint. We also had to repoint 10% of the existing stone façade and add balustrades on the wings branching off of the main building. The former roof that once covered the auditorium was replaced with a new membrane lining, and minor grading was incorporated on the ground so that optimized draining was created, decreasing the fear of leaking issues later on down the road.

With the amount of traffic that circulates in and around Wilson Hall, throughout the entire project, we made sure to protect all existing conditions surrounding the site, and keep safe, open, access for the students and faculty to adjacent buildings and areas. We understood how significant this building is to the flow of everyone on campus and did our best to limit the decreased availability of its features while we worked.

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