Ushering in a New Architectural Era for Woodside Cottage

A new 1,000-square-foot addition to the campus’ oldest building makes it more accessible and reflective of the College’s values.

Given its stature and prominence, it’s no surprise that many would mistake Founders Hall as the oldest building on the Haverford campus. But that honor actually goes to Woodside Cottage, the humble three-story farmhouse tucked along the southwest end of Walton Road. A new addition at Woodside, work on which wrapped up in late fall, ensures that all members of the community can more easily enjoy this slice of Haverford’s history. 

An understated architectural prize on a campus that includes many, Woodside was built circa  1811 and once housed the farmers who oversaw the 200 acres that comprise Haverford’s current campus footprint. Over the years, it has served various purposes: faculty housing, student dormitory, and, most recently, the home for the Department of English. Throughout its 213 years of service, Woodside has remained largely intact, though its rooms have been repurposed to accommodate classrooms and faculty offices. Its most significant alteration came in the 1880s when it housed then College President Professor Thomas Chase (of Chase Hall fame), who commissioned the Victorian polychrome brick addition, now known as the Meditation Room, as his “new Library Building.” Stylistically, the earlier addition has always stood as a curious juxtaposition with the vernacular of the stuccoed stone colonial farmhouse.

Throughout Woodside’s numerous configurations, it has faced the same challenge confronting many of the nation’s other historic buildings:  a lack of accessibility. With several steps up to both its front porch as well as further steps up to the Meditation Room, Woodside did not reflect Haverford’s commitment to academic and physical accessibility. But a one-story addition and elongated walkway that connects to Walton Road parking on the building’s south side, has addressed that longstanding issue. 

“As a building that hosts a primary program element, such as the English department, Woodside was identified as one of our higher priorities for accessibility,” says Assistant Director of Facilities Management for Planning and Design Dave Harrower, who oversaw the work. 

Supported by the College’s annual renewals and replacements budget line for accessibility upgrades with construction drawings provided by the distinguished Philadelphia-based architecture firm DIGSAU, the work kicked off in July. The contractor was W.S. Cumby, which previously built Tritton and Kim Halls in 2012.  

At about 1,000 square feet, the new stucco-clad addition strives to not diminish Woodside’s architectural character while adding an interior ramp that makes accessing the Meditation Room, its primary classroom space, achievable for those with mobility concerns. Equally important from an aesthetics perspective, a substantial skylight above the ramp draws ample daylight into the space. The addition also provides a fully accessible toilet room, and power-operated doors with card readers at both the north and south approaches to the building.

“One of the things that people were really worried about when the project began was whether or not they’d lose all the light in the Meditation Room,” says Harrower. “It’s a beautiful room with lots of southern light, so we pushed hard to ensure the addition has sunlight. I think it has really paid off.”