Alumni House at Rutgers University–Camden and the Rutgers University–Newark Alumni House


One stunning architectural feature of the new Alumni House at Rutgers University–Camden, top left and left, is the Ragone Family Grand Staircase, which will be restored to its former glory and named through a gift of $50,000 from Dean Ragone CCAS’81 and his wife, Sharon, and the Daniel J. Ragone Foundation. The Rutgers University Alumni Association and the Rutgers University–Camden Alumni Association named other interior spaces through major gifts for the renovation. The house is expected to open in April. The Rutgers University–Newark Alumni House, above, a 19th-century structure that was recently purchased and is located in the historic James Street Commons neighborhood, was likely created by Newark architect William Halsey Wood. Architectural historian and alumna Meredith Arms Bzdak is a member of the architectural firm that has been commissioned for the renovation. 

Dan Neuner

Southern Charm

No Place Like Home: The former Red Cross building at 312 Cooper Street is being transformed into the Alumni House at Rutgers University–Camden. A major renovation will preserve the structure’s 19th-century charm and Federal-style architectural features while incorporating modern amenities. Expected to open in April, the Alumni House will join other Rutgers-renovated sites in the area and heighten the university’s presence on Cooper Street, the thoroughfare that leads to the Camden waterfront.

Atmospheric Conditions: Besides being a permanent space for alumni activities, the Alumni House will welcome graduates of all Rutgers locations to drop in, learn about how they can become more involved, peruse the library of yearbooks and artifacts, or just relax. Students will  be able to use the spaces and resources, and outside organizations, as part of the  university’s connection to the community, will be welcome to rent the facility.

Signing Bonus: In December, alumni who contributed to the project got an early look at the renovations in progress. They toured the ground floor in hard hats and took a look at architectural renderings of the upper floor. They also left behind a piece of themselves: their signatures on a large panel to be placed behind a wall in the library. (Photos of the panel will be  on display in the library.) Alumni House Committee co-chair James Rhodes CCAS’94, who attended the event and made his own indelible mark, says the house is “a loud and clear message to alumni that they are appreciated and  welcome to come back to Camden.”

— Amy Vames

Connecting the Dots

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: For its own Alumni House, Rutgers University–Newark recently acquired  the property at 47 Central Avenue, a 19th-century structure located in the  historic James Street Commons neighborhood. The building was originally designed to be a surgeon’s office and residence, likely by William Halsey Wood, a prominent Newark architect. The building, just a stone’s throw from Newark Museum, is a symbol of the university’s deepening connection to the city of Newark.

In the Know: The university has hired Princeton-based Mills + Schnoering Architects, which specializes in historic preservation, to plan the renovation. The firm has other Newark historic renovations to its credits, such as the Essex County Courthouse and the New Jersey Historical Society. Two members of the project team—lead architect Michael Mills and architectural historian Meredith Arms Bzdak GSNB’87,’95—are associate graduate faculty in the art history department at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Past Meets Future: For Rutgers–Newark, the Alumni House is the most recent in  a succession of projects that preserve the city’s past while providing for its future. Citing investments in Express Newark, which will occupy a portion of three floors in the Hahne’s building, and  15 Washington Street, Bzdak says the university is “deeply committed to revitalizing buildings that are important to Newark’s history and that are part of the fabric of the downtown neighborhood.” 

Purposeful Design: The university and alumni community will work together in determining programs for the Alumni House to host, and the plans will inform the architectural design. The building  will also house development and alumni relations offices, promoting a deeper  connection between alumni engagement and philanthropy.