Lehigh University
Lehigh University

University Center Tower Stabilization Nears Completion

As we enter the 2020’s, the Clayton University Center tower is prepared to weather the next century with renewed dignity.  University Facilities is wrapping up a multi-year multi-million-dollar stabilization and targeted restoration of the beloved and iconic tower.  Originally named Packer Hall, built in 1868 as three interconnected buildings, the original tower was reconstructed from the ground up in the 1920’s. 

In 2015, as design work began for renovation and a new addition to the University Center led to extensive investigation into the needs of the original 1868 building as whole including the tower.  That investigation led to a realization that the University needed to invest in a robust stabilization effort after a century of wear and tear, and prior to the more extensive renovations getting underway.  In 2018, after extensive planning and engineering, the Whiting Turner Group started construction under direction of Hoffman Architects from Washington D.C. and Lehigh University Facilities.  

Renovations always yield unexpected discoveries, and Packer Tower was no exception.  From structural inconsistencies that altered critical construction paths, to the revelation that the turret was hollow on the interior, concealed by infill masonry until now, this project presented constant challenges.  The extensive work included over thirteen hundred cores drilled through the quartzite of the exterior, to allow for grout to be injected and create an anchor between the face stones and the supporting stones of the interior.    The cores, which measure about 3” in diameter were painstakingly re-inserted in their original locations, blending back in with the surrounding stones.  

Additionally, the project included:

  • Complete repointing of all interior and exterior mortar joints, and replacement of compromised quartzite, basalt stone and brownstone. 
  • Direct port grout injection was completed at many areas to bond the interior and exterior stone and infill rubble together.  
  • Two cracked finials atop the brownstone turrets were replaced with new stone pieces. 
  • Installation of a new slate roof and flashing, including custom lead-coated copper trefoil banding meant to weather the next 100 years.  
  • The repair and re-glazing of windows and complete replacement of all façade sealant joints. 
  • Interior repairs to the existing wood spiral staircase, louvers, through wall flashings, and structural improvements to the timber frame roof anchored to the stone bearing walls. 
  • Complete stabilization of previous steel anchorage and retaining plates was also completed, including the removal of many unsightly bracing elements no longer necessary due to the current improvements. 

In a year or two no one will remember the scaffolding, and the tower will continue to stand tall as a symbol of Lehigh.  The best compliment will be no compliment at all.

Article submitted by:
Joe Klocek
Project Manager, Facilities