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Yale Law School Construction Update

Throughout the summer, we will post bi-weekly updates about Yale Law School's efforts to repair damage caused by the explosion that occurred on May 21. These informational updates will focus on three areas of concern: construction, portraits, and rare books.

The most recent update appears at the top of the page. Scroll down for earlier reports.

July 9, 2003, Progress Report

Construction in Room 120 and the Alumni Reading Room

Construction is on schedule in both Room 120 and the Alumni Reading Room. Workers have finished repairing the ceiling and the wall that divides the two rooms. They are currently finishing painting the ceiling and walls and will dismantle the scaffolding in the next week or so.

The new wiring in Room 120 has created an infrastructure for future technological improvements. Wireless internet capacity will definitely be added by the beginning of the coming academic year, while other improvements, such as new audio-visual equipment, are still being considered.


All of the portraits have been evaluated by a conservator, who confirms the initial judgment that only three painting will require substantial repair or replacement. All of the others can be easily cleaned and restored.

Rare Books

The books in the Paskus Danziger Rare Book Room that were damaged by water will remain in their deep-freeze into next week, when YLS librarians and conservators from the Yale University Library will begin retrieving and repairing them.

Construction on the Rare Book Room stacks has been completed. The walls and ceiling have been repaired and repainted, and new waterproof tile has been installed on the floor. The reading room has been stripped of carpet and will get a new carpet later this month.

None of the books has been moved back onto the shelves, in order to avoid exposing them to chemical fumes given off by the adhesive used on the tile in the stacks and the new carpet that is scheduled to be installed in the reading room. The fumes should dissipate in a few weeks, and the Rare Book Room should be fully functional by the end of August.

Initial Report -- June 24, 2003

Construction in Room 120 and the Alumni Reading Room

The explosion caused extensive damage to the wall that separated Room 120 from the Alumni Reading Room. Cabinets on the Alumni Reading Room side of the wall were destroyed, as was the audio-visual equipment in Room 120. A portion of the wall tumbled down the open stairwell to the L2 level of the library, damaging the stairwell, railing and surrounding wall. In addition, several stained glass medallions and hanging lamps in Room 120 were broken.

The pictures below were taken several days after the explosion--after all of the rubble had been cleared away, but before any significant rebuilding:

In the last three weeks, construction has begun and progressed significantly. The work is being overseen by Turner Construction, the same firm that worked on the 1998 renovation of the Law School classrooms.

So far, the wall between Room 120 and the Alumni Reading Room has been rebuilt. The new wall is constructed of sheet rock and metal studs, whereas the old wall was a masonary wall, primarily made of cinder blocks. The new design is not only cheaper to build, but will provide better sound absorption and make it easier to thread wiring through the wall.

The rooms are clogged with scaffolding, to allow workers to replace the duct work and conduit that runs above the ceiling. Turner Construction and the Law School are working with a number of subcontractors to handle new electrical systems, plumbing, audiovisual equipment, and millwork.

The banks of stained glass windows have been removed from Room 120 and replaced with temporary wooden windows.


Considering their proximity to the blast, the damage to portraits hanging in Room 120 and the Alumni Reading Room was light. Three portraits sustained significant damage, such as rips or tears, and around thirty require cleaning or light repair. All of the portraits were removed before construction began, and will be evaluated and repaired by a professional restoration company.

Rare Books

Water from a broken sprinkler head in Room 120 flowed under the floor and into the Paskus Danziger Rare Book Room stacks, which are directly below. About 450 books were damaged by the water--ranging from minimal wetting to significant damage. However, no volumes were damaged beyond repair.

Within twenty-four hours after the explosion, all affected books had been carefully packed in plastic milk crates and stored in a blast freezer in the Beinecke Library. This preserved them, while conservators consider how best to treat each volume.

While the books wait, construction in the stacks has moved ahead. The carpeting on the floor was stripped and will be replaced with vinyl tile, which won't retain moisture in the event of another flood. The walls have been repaired and repainted, and the ceiling has been repaired. To prevent water from again running into the stacks, a water-proof layer was added under the new wall between Room 120 and the Alumni Reading Room.

Please check @YLS for further updates on the construction in two weeks.