Behind the Scenes of Mason and Randolph

Two residence halls on the University of Mary Washington campus have gotten a makeover, turning the 1950s buildings into state-of-the-art living and learning spaces. Mason and Randolph halls, in the center of the Fredericksburg campus, will re-open at the end of August after a year of extensive renovations. The residence halls showcase new living and learning communities and are examples of environmentally friendly construction.

In the planning stages for the renovation project, Bowie Gridley Architects focused on creating more study spaces and group work spaces, while retaining the original look and feel of the buildings, Director of Residence Life Chris Porter said.

“We took unused and underused spaces and created lounges and study rooms,” she said.

While adding features like elevators and air conditioning to the buildings, they also upgraded what was known as “the tunnel” on the first level. Now called “The Link,” the connecting hallway between the two residence halls will be home to four faculty and staff apartments on the bottom level.

The ground level of The Link, formerly a terrace known on-campus as “the beach,” now connects Mason and Randolph with three seminar rooms and a large gathering space.

The seminar rooms, with a view of downtown Fredericksburg on one side and George Washington Hall on the other, will accommodate small classes of 10 to 15 students, including those part of UMW’s three first-year living and learning communities.

One living and learning community, Empower U, will hold a women and gender studies seminar class in The Link, steps away from where the small group of first-year students will live in Randolph Hall.

“[Living and learning communities] are an opportunity for a group of about 15 people to live together, take a class together and do programming and things around a theme,” Porter said. “This year, we have a leadership community, a women and gender studies community and a social justice community.”

Courtesy of Tom Riley:A panorama shows Mason Hall (left) and Randolph Hall, connected by seminar rooms and a gathering space


The entire Mason and Randolph project is in line to receive LEED Gold, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification, Porter said, for its many sustainable features, including its use of recycled materials, sustainable wood, energy efficient lighting and stormwater runoff control. The U.S. Green Building Council uses the LEED rating system to recognize successful green building design, construction and operations.

Three seminar rooms connect Mason and Randolph halls

The architects used recycled materials from the original construction of Mason and Randolph in 1957 and 1954 respectively. The marble from old bathroom partitions was salvaged, cut into pieces and used as window sills throughout the renovated buildings. Also, the bluestone pavers from the original “beach” have reappeared in the front porches and plaza areas.

From motion sensor lighting and energy efficient insulation to sustainably harvested wood for the furniture, the buildings’ green features were a priority, Porter said.

The focus on sustainability is evident in Dr. Tom Riley’s three murals along the walls. Riley, the university physician, created murals of the Rappahannock River, the York River and the Potomac River to illustrate Fredericksburg’s connection to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Porter hopes the murals and gathering spaces make the residence halls feel more like home for the close to 200 students in each building.

“We asked the architects to design a campus destination with a heavy emphasis on the ‘wow’ factor,” Porter said, “and I think they did that and more. Students will be proud to call this community home.”

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.


  1. Charles Reed Jr. says:

    This is absolutely amazing. It’s so gratifying to see UMW continuing to move in the right direction. I know future students will be pleased and it definitely makes a a very proud alum.

  2. David Rickey says:

    What a tragic waste of resources!
    I lived in Mason and found it to be a good place to live with a healthy sense of community. The building need deferred maintenance taken care of and it could have benefited from air conditioning, but the quality of the materials shown in this video are FAR below those in the original construction (I mean windows and building fittings, not furniture). Thr original materials used in construction were maintainable and repairable with a long life span, which had decades more life left in them. The new materials look nice, but will most likely be ready for the landfill within 20 years. I fear this renovation’s legacy will be much like that of Willard Hall (A disgusting mess as of 2000-2004.

  3. Cullen Seltzer says:

    As a former resident of the tunnel, with fond memories of it, I have to say the renovation looks fantastic. Congratulations UMW for the excellent, creative work!



  5. Carol Susan (Smith) Howland says:

    So glad to see Randolph Hall and Macon Hall has been renovate and that the renovations are almost complete. I have so many fond memories of living there! I am hoping that Air Conditioning has been installed so that people in the summer sessions don’t melt! Study areas are greatly needed too. Class of 1972

  6. betty Adams says:

    Mason and Randolph were the luxury dorms in my day. I applaud the concept, but think it looks a little too “Ikea.” However, I will reserve judgment until I see. Must also check out Willard as per the above comment.

  7. Karen Gustafson says:

    I lived in Randolph in 1962. In those days it was a traditional, but classy building. After spending the past 35 years in the interior design industry, I must say that the furnishings and design (that can be seen in the photographs) look pretty “vanilla” to me. I’m disappointed that more emphasis was not given to the design. Sustainable design is a worthy goal, but not when the end result is uninspired. I would look for a new design team. Many U.S. firms today are creating spectacular “green” interiors.

    • Timmi Pierce says:

      Thumbs up on your comments, Karen, and good to hear even so briefly what you’ve been up to professionally. I’m another who lived there. Class of ’62. Now executive director of the Historical Society of Carroll County, MD, overseeing preservation of 3 over two-hundred-year-old properties we own in Westminster among other things.

  8. Ellen de Gail Class of '61 says:

    Once again, “progress” has infiltrated my beloved MWC(Mary Washington College in my day-Class of 1961) campus, and the aesthetic beauty of the campus is slowly fading away. Why disturb the “beach” area, which only added more appeal to the connected dorms, and replace it with ANOTHER building! Each time I hear of another dorm or building going up, I have to cringe, for that means that more and more of the beauty of the campus is disappearing. Sorry to be so negative about the renovations to Mason and Randolph, but couldn’t they, at least, have kept them to the INTERIOR of the buildings, and leave the EXTERIOR as it was?? Soon, the University of Mary Washington, as it is now called, will become a mass of brick buildings with brick sidewalks, with very little “green” for the students to enjoy! Very sad to see that happen to my alma mater! So be it, I guess!

  9. Patsy Burdette says:

    I am class of 1973. I lived in Mason my sophomore year. It was the best dorm on campus then. Glad to see that the students will have a/c now but furniture looks uncomfortable and bland. Hope they explained things to the resident ghost (a young Civil War soldier) who lived in the ‘tunnel’. We all knew to be friendly and respectful or be prepared for strange things to happen in the tunnel (and sometimes upstairs too).

  10. Lisa Barker '71 says:

    Any particular reason to have a video introducing the remodeling and showing only the IKEA furniture in one room?

  11. Jan (Pace) Brice says:

    I lived in Randolph in “72 and loved it! The days of “all girls” and being announced you “had a caller” are now considered the “dark ages” but will always hold special memories for me. I would love to see more of the rennovations because this picture looks dull and uninviting–kinda like a utility office waiting to pay a bill! Has anyone tried to “study” in one of those straight back chairs??

  12. Kim Ballard says:

    I always loved the traditional, comfortable, “homey” feel of the dorms. I agree with the other comments–this looks sterile, stiff, and uncomfortable. The space looks nice, but the decor and furnishings look uninviting and cold. I would not want to study in this space!

  13. Kim Ballard says:

    Forgot to include Class of 1975.

  14. kay Mizell Heppinstill (1962) says:

    Having lived in Mason my sophmore year after living in Betty Lewis as a Freshman in an 8 girl suite with one bathroom was like going from rags to riches. It was beautiful! Now the renovations make it look even better. Thanks for making it an even more beautiful place to live!

  15. I agree, this looks like an Ikea show room. We made Mason our home by hanging up our own paintings on the walls. AC is nice but not necessary since you’re not in school in the summer months. Also….we didn’t call the terrace the beach so much as the lawn between the dorms. The terrace was a great place for painting, playing music, smashing pumpkins,etc. Hopefully they leave the beach alone.

  16. Kris Overstreet Helms, class of 1973, Randolph says:

    LIved next to the tunnel on the Randolph side sophomore side. Look forward to see the changes.How small we had it and the phone was next to us! Back door was, too. Am coming to 40th reunion next year, so this will be on my tour. Thank you for the information!
    Kris Helms