“It’s a building that has been well loved … but it’s worn out,” says Dan Nelson ’75.
At a recent senior dinner at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, a member of the Class of 2015 recalled, “The lodge was the first part of Dartmouth that made me feel that I was home.”
The sentiment echoes that of generations of Dartmouth students and alumni, says Cedar Farwell ’17, president of the Dartmouth Outing Club. As the culminating destination of First-Year Trips—considered the oldest freshman outdoor orientation program in the country—the Ravine Lodge has welcomed undergraduates to the Dartmouth community since it opened in 1938. More than 90 percent of incoming students participate in the trips each year.
“It’s where almost every student’s Dartmouth experience starts,” says Farwell. “You go on trips and come together at the lodge and share your stories with future classmates and upperclassmen who are volunteering so much time and energy just to welcome you to this place. Moosilauke has sort of absorbed that energy.”
The 77-year-old-structure, located in the White Mountains, 45 miles northeast of Hanover in Warren, also hosts orientation programs for the Geisel School of Medicine and the Tuck School of Business, and is popular among students, faculty, staff, and alumni as a venue for any number of events, from weddings to retreats. The student-led lodge crew annually manages an average of 4,000 overnight guests and serves approximately 12,000 meals from May to November.
But the lodge wasn’t built to stand for three-quarters of a century, says Dan Nelson ’75, director of Outdoor Programs. “It’s a building that has been well loved and served the College wonderfully, but it’s worn out.”
So plans are underway to replace it. Waitsfield, Vt.-based Maclay Architects recently completed designs for a new structure on the site that increases social, dining, and meeting space while maintaining the original’s spirit.
Among the key upgrades will be improved accessibility, a larger dining room to accommodate group meals and activities, a more functional kitchen for the lodge crew, and greater energy efficiency.
“The architects have done a wonderful job of listening to students, alumni, and others in the community who care deeply about the place,” Nelson says.
“The continuities that people will notice are lots of use of wood—including some log elements from the current lodge—and the familiar memorabilia that in the current lodge remind people so much of the history and tradition,” he says.
The College hopes to fund the project entirely through private philanthropy. Assuming funding and board of trustee approvals, construction could begin as early as September 2016, after First-Year Trips wrap up. Replacement of the Ravine Lodge is part of a larger plan to renew Dartmouth’s Mount Moosilauke facilities.
Farwell acknowledges sadness at the loss of the old building. “It has so much character. That’s one reason it’s important to have students be part of the building process. I think we have an incredible sense of ownership and dedication to this place that’s going to be used for generations. It’s really incredible to be part of that.”
Earlier this month, members of the Class of 1965, in Hanover for their 50th reunion, helped dedicate the 26-bed, timber-frame Class of 1965 Bunkhouse—and celebrate the 138 classmates who raised $550,000 to build and maintain the structure, as well as the alumni, students, and other volunteers who contributed nearly 4,000 hours of labor toward its construction.
Speaking at the ’65 Bunkhouse dedication, Nelson said, “What this beautiful building does for our program is it welcomes students and others to Dartmouth’s mountain. It provides hospitality—a hearth and a heart.”