Shippensburg University’s Martin House

Visit Martin House on the campus of Shippensburg University today, stroll through the main floor of the Georgian revival and out onto the sun-soaked terrace, and it will feel like the same quaint home you walked through on campus a few years back—or like you might have stood in a century ago.

That’s by design, Frank Dittenhafer said.

Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects recently completed updates and repairs to Martin House, the historic structure built in 1907 that sits at the heart of campus, with an $870,000 project that took about nine months to complete. The new design improved the flow of the old home’s layout and added 600 square feet of new space, all while protecting the integrity and feel of the original site.

“The idea here was just to knit everything together much more seamlessly,” Dittenhafer said, “but in a way that you wouldn’t recognize that any major changes had been made.”

 

A focus on historical accuracy

It’s a process that’s familiar to the firm.

Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects’ staff is well versed in the feasibility studies and approvals necessary for careful work on historic sites. Like past projects across the area, design changes at the Martin House were reviewed for historical accuracy with a steady eye on authenticity to the period.

“We have a lot of experience with these types of projects, and we understand the issues associated with updating historic buildings,” Dittenhafer said. “We know how to do the work and still make them feel authentic and appropriate.”

Martin House was built in 1907, the fourth of five original buildings still at the center of campus in Shippensburg. The building has 5,700 square feet of space used for events and for living quarters for the university president and family. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Making room for bigger and better things

For the recent update, M&D’s design focused on repairs and upgrades that would improve the flow of the space on the main floor where events are held and upstairs in the family living space.

The building’s HVAC system was updated. A narrow sunroom on the main floor was expanded to better accommodate receptions and other college events. Handicap accessibility was improved.

“We wanted alumni to feel more like this was their home,” Dittenhafer said.

Other work included a fresh design for the upstairs living area, a new kitchen, and updates to the grand central hall. M&D even came up with a way to connect the site’s three-car garage to the home, making it that much easier for caterers bringing in food for college events.

All of that, Dittenhafer said, without any disturbance to the integrity of the original design and with careful adherence to the feel of the period. Overall, it was a rewarding project.

“It was a very intense, very comprehensive design process to make sure that this was done just right,” he said. “We’re proud of it, and we were proud to collaborate with Shippensburg.”

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