Iacocca Hall was originally used as part of a research facility for Bethlehem Steel Corporation before it was bought by Lehigh in 1986. The Wood Dining Room located inside Iacocca Hall went through it’s first refurbishment this year. (Michael Ioannou/B&W Staff)

Iacocca dining hall undergoes first updates since 1980s

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In 1986, Lehigh bought several buildings and 742 acres of land from Bethlehem Steel Corporation. That land became Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus, the site of Iacocca Hall, which houses the College of Education and the biological sciences department.

The Wood Dining Room, located in Iacocca Hall, originally operated as Bethlehem Steel’s cafeteria. The room was filled with dark wooden fixtures, ’70s-style colors, outdated furniture and perpetually-closed heavy curtains.

The curtains hung around the solar controls, which were used for presentations. Since there were no blinds, the curtains had to be physically shifted into position.

On Nov. 3 those curtains were finally reopened after the dining room was renovated. This is the first refurbishment of Wood Dining Room since Lehigh bought the building in the ’80s.

“Iacocca Hall needed to be updated,” said Mary Kay Baker, the director of conference and special housing services at Lehigh. “The room needed a more sophisticated look to the space to bring it into the 21st century and become a Lehigh venue, as opposed to Bethlehem Steel.”

The dining room hosts a variety of engagements, from conferences and Lehigh department events to private celebratory events like as weddings.

Since 2015, Lehigh’s department of conference services worked with Unique Venue consultants on the development of a new plan that would accommodate changes to Iacocca’s Conference Center.

EwingCole, a Philadelphia-based architecture and engineering firm, completed the project for Lehigh. EwingCole won the bid process to work on the updated Wood Dining Room, beating several other companies who submitted bids.

The company’s vision was a match for Lehigh.

The project renovation team included EwingCole, conference services, facility services and Sodexo staff.

“The team worked together to achieve the best design impact for the established budget, (which was decided by Conference Services),” project manager Kristine Dwyer said. “EwingCole was very good to work with throughout the project development and construction.”

University architect Brent Stringfellow said the dining room renovations allow the room to have a modernized finish with plenty of open space.

“A lot of people nowadays like styles from the 1950s and 1960s, and we made that the central theme of the room,” Stringfellow said. “One of the major changes we included was a presentation wall. In the old room, before the changes were made, doors from the kitchen opened directly into the dining room and we wanted to fix that. Now with the new wall, there is a better functioning space.”

Upcoming projects for Lehigh include a renovation to Chandler-Ullmann Hall.

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