June 18, 2024

Event Patio to be Built Behind Frost Hall 

Anne Shearer 24'

The living room of Gordon College is getting a back porch— a paver stone, 3,280 square foot back porch. 

Within a few months, construction will begin on a patio behind Frost Hall. Frost is sometimes called the “living room” of campus, because it is where Gordon first greets its Admissions guests. This outdoor patio construction is funded by a philanthropic donor, and will serve as an event space for Admissions, Advancement, Homecoming, Student Life, and more. 

The paver stone patio is planned to measure 41-by-80 feet, with the capacity to set up a 30-by-50 foot tent over it for special activities. Construction plans include a retaining wall that will match the stone aesthetic of Frost and create space for the patio on the hill behind the Frost lobby. “It’s been several presidential administrations that have seen the value and potential of this,” said Gordon Alumnus and Senior Director of Campus Planning, Chris Imming. He cited a temporary flooring and rental tent that were used in the same spot for outdoor events during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Imming said the patio will include seating to match current reception seating in Frost’s lobby, but that is moveable for events. 

Rear side of Frost, where the patio will go. Circa 1952. Courtesy of Gordon College Archives. 

Built by millionaire Frederick H. Prince circa 1885, Frost Hall was called the “mansion house” until named for Gordon graduate and philanthropic supporter Martha Frost in 1955. Before selling to Gordon, Prince had offered his estate as a location for the United Nations headquarters. After Gordon purchased the estate, questions of how to best use the “mansion house” arose. A 1950 report considered the viability of housing students or holding classes in Frost, and classes were held in the building for a time. Currently, Frost Hall houses the offices of the President, Admissions, and various faculty and program leaders. 

Imming said Gordon has been considering a Frost patio for years as a way to enhance use of Frost’s lawn. Due to the spot’s scenic views of Coy Pond and Frost Hall, and its proximity to the Admissions Office, “it’s really one of the prized areas of campus.” Past renovations to the Frost Lobby aimed “to create that as the living room experience of the college,” said Imming, “all guests and visitors really start their Gordon experience in that location.” The patio will extend that first impression beyond the physical building. 

Projected construction plans for the patio. Courtesy of Chris Imming.

“The experience behind Frost doesn’t currently live up to the experience inside, and there are just some logistical challenges that we’re trying to resolve with the addition of a patio,” explained Imming. For instance, the sun’s location inhibits robust grass growth, so rain or high-traffic events on the lawn rip up the soil. “It’s just a sub-par experience for guest visitors and it is challenging for Physical Plant to maintain the importance and beauty of that area,” said Imming. Another issue is the high step from the Frost Lobby down to the lawn. Imming and Presidential Fellow Ana Bueno ‘25 plan to solve this with an inclined walkway to increase accessibility to the patio. 

While the current focus is on visitors because Frost is the visitor reception area, Imming expressed excitement about the opportunities current students will have to use the space. He mentioned outdoor worship nights, outdoor chapel, or CEC dances as ways he imagines Student Life may utilize the new patio.  

The space also has ecological importance because of its proximity to Coy Pond. During the estimated 18 months Imming has been working on these plans, he has partnered with the Conservation Commision, civil engineering firm Hancock Associates, and the Town of Wenham to ensure the project abides by water protection bylaws and federal regulations. There is also a brick arch tunnel under the Frost lawn that needs consideration. This utility tunnel goes diagonally from the Frost “ruins” on the north side to the Pendragon, a basement room on the west side. A December geophysical survey used electromagnetic instruments and ground-penetrating radar to confirm the tunnel’s depth and location. 

The Wenham Conservation Commission gave its final approval for the project on February 26.  Imming will present the project on March 5 to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. “Gordon is optimistic that we will receive favorable review of the plans . . . if that is the case we should be able to start construction prior to graduation,” Imming stated in an email. If the Zoning Board of Appeals approves, Gordon can register the plans with the state registry. Barring any objections within the 21-day appeals period, the project will finally begin. Imming anticipates a formal dedication in the Fall, around Homecoming time. 

Special thanks to Chris Imming for this article. 

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