On Nov. 5, after nine months of renovation, the Log, the historic student and alumni hangout at the College, reopened.
Kenneth Reynolds, ’16, built the Log in 1941 as an alumni house. Alumni who were not affiliated with fraternities stayed at the Log when they returned to visit. It very quickly came into use as a meeting area, performance venue, bar and eatery.
Alumni fondly remember the venue as a hangout where all four classes at the College could meet and interact. “It acted very much as a centralized venue that brought much of the campus together in an informal way,” Steve Klass, vice-president of campus life, said. When the drinking age changed from 18 to 21 in the 1980s, the Log closed to students under the age of 21. As a result, students started to use the venue less frequently and eventually just for specific events.
The first discussion of renovations took place in the spring of 2013, when President Adam Falk requested that the Log be reopened as a place for students to congregate once again. “At the same time, the College had been evaluating the various elements important to sustaining a vibrant, economically viable Spring Street and a revitalized Log became a central element in bringing student traffic and vitality to the south end of the street, especially in the evenings,” Klass said.
After significant study by faculty, students, staff and alumni, which involved comparing similar venues at other colleges, interviewing past users of the Log and speaking with current students about what they would be interested in utilizing the venue for, the College developed a vision for the revival of the old space. The research found that students sought a place where they could meet with professors in a more relaxed environment, hold student programs, enjoy an interesting and diverse menu with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options and interact with the surrounding community.
Alumni gifts totaling $4.5 million dollars made the renovation possible. “The alumni who donated to this project really wanted to create a space for today’s students to come and relax and unwind with their friends – just like they did back in the day,” Mary Dettloff, director of media relations, said. The original look of the Log was largely maintained to cater to visiting alumni who can now enjoy the same atmosphere that they experienced when they were students at the College. The original wood floors are refinished and tabletops that have carvings of names and initials of alumni and visitors are displayed in the West College and Dodge Rooms.
Along with these changes, the renovation included the addition of insulation and the replacement of deteriorated clapboard. A seam metal roof now generates 25 percent of the electricity in the building, and the building’s envelope was improved in order to create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable facility. The re-built deck on the south side of the building provides a means for enjoying the venue when the weather is warm.
The fireplace in the Dodge Room was also converted into natural gas while still maintaining the gristmill that stood on Water Street in 1859. The wooden panels in the Black Room have been restored, and a new kitchen and several new bathrooms have been added. The Log continues to display its wall murals and a collection of College memorabilia.
The College consulted eight local restaurants before deciding to collaborate with the Williamstown eatery Hops and Vines, which will now run the food and beverage service. A student advisory committee was also formed during planning and construction to allow students to monitor the progress and operation of the facility and to keep up to date on the effects of the renovations.
The Log is open 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 12 a.m on Saturday and noon to 11 p.m on Sunday. It will be open for lunch Monday through Thursday, starting in January. It features a late night menu, which is offered starting at 9:30 p.m., and regularly serves items such as salads, burgers, pizza, small plates like mini chili cheese dogs and wings and family style meals including fried chicken and waffles. The drink menu has a changing selection of beer and wine. Students of the College can get a 30 percent discount on their meal after 3 p.m. and are encouraged to stop by to meet friends, study, watch sporting events and enjoy a meal.
Many events will be held at the Log, including the long-running Log Lunch Lecture Series, held by the Environmental Studies program, which occurs every Friday at noon. The next one will be “2015 Climate Summit in Paris and the History of Climate Negotiations” on Friday. On Monday, All Campus Entertainment kicked off Spirit Week with a night at the Log filled with student performances and free appetizers.
“The Log represents a very unique kind of space that wants to be a lot of things at once, not all of which can co-exist simultaneously during every hour that it’s open,” Klass said, analyzing the many roles the Log has to fill. “Let’s remember, this is a brand new venue, … it needs time and creative usage before it can fully define its identity and the social space it’s going to occupy.”