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The exterior of the Happy Valley dorm was transformed from battleship gray to natural cedar clapboards.

Town and Village

‘Happy Valley’ now happier

Marlboro College dorm gets a long-needed renovation

Editor’s note: Wendy M. Levy used to live in Happy Valley 8. She will neither confirm nor deny leaving anything stuffed into the walls.

MARLBORO—Marlboro College’s “Happy Valley” dorm recently received a much-needed upgrade.

The 10-room dorm at the small, liberal arts college located about 12 miles from downtown Brattleboro was built in 1960. Its rooflines, wooden clapboard exterior, and large windows in the common room remind one of a mid-century ski lodge.

In recent years, as the college continued assessing its assets, Happy Valley rose to the top of the list of dorms in need of renovation, according to Dan Cotter, director of plant operations at the college.

A facility survey the college gave to the students confirmed the need to make some changes to the building.

As Marlboro looked at options for what to do about Happy Valley, its administration determined “it was cheaper to renovate than just flatten the building and start over,” said Cotter.

Meanwhile, he said, “someone heard the college was renovating Happy Valley,” and half of the funding for the project came from that anonymous donor.

Top to bottom

Cotter said the dorm received a complete top-to-bottom renovation.

“Basically, the whole building was taken down to the frame,” he said.

Most of the rooms remain where they were prior to the renovation. One dorm room became a bathroom.

Accessibility was one major problem with the dorm. Happy Valley was originally designed with its only bathrooms located at the bottom of a short, yet steep, set of stairs.

Now, Cotter said, the building is accessible to students and visitors with limited mobility. There are no stairs leading into the building, and a completely accessible full bathroom is located on the main floor.

The stairs that used to lead to the common room are also gone, replaced by a long, gentle ramp from the breezeway. A handicapped-only parking space was also added to the lot outside.

The breezeway itself also received an upgrade, thanks to the improved drainage surrounding the building.

In the past, because of a lack of sufficient drainage outside the dorm, water would collect at the entryway and run beneath the main door. Now, drains collect and redistribute rain and melting snow.

Perhaps the most striking change to Happy Valley is its exterior. The shape of the building remains, but its wooden exterior, once painted a sad battleship gray, now sports cedar clapboards that follow horizontal lines.

Very few surprises

Demolition began April 1. By May 31, the work was done, just in time for Camp Gone to the Dogs, which takes over Marlboro College’s campus after the school year ends and before the arrival of the Marlboro Music Festival.

How did the dogs, and their owners, like the new Happy Valley?

“They loved it,” said Cotter, adding that the renovations went “very smoothly” and noting that “the architect and the builder worked well together.”

“The college is very happy with the work,” he added.

When asked if the demolition workers found anything interesting stuffed into the walls, abandoned by 55 years of students, Cotter said, “there were very few surprises."

The work does not end with Happy Valley. He said the college plans to renovate three more dorms by 2019: Schrader, Random North, and Random South.

“We haven’t decided which dorm is next,” Cotter said, “but the plan is to continue.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #311 (Wednesday, June 24, 2015). This story appeared on page C4.

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