Rachel Farber '16 Assistant News Editor
If a student walks through the Grécourt Gates before Commencement, she will not graduate – or so the story goes. The gates are an important symbol in Smith tradition, and graduates, after receiving their diplomas, gather in line to pass through them to take that iconic photo.
Last week, Smith College completed a six-month renovation project to restore the gates and make the adjacent sidewalks – where accidents occur – safer.
The repairs include the installation of a bluestone walkway and plaza at the gates, the widening of the sidewalk by two feet, the installation of a retaining wall along the new sidewalk and the installation of a five-foot-wide grass buffer between Elm Street and the sidewalk.
The gates were installed in 1924 in honor of the Smith graduates who went to France in 1917 as the Smith College Relief Unit. The unit was based in Grécourt, a village that had been evacuated by the German army, and provided medical aid, food and supplies and set up schools for children. The Grécourt Gates outside College Hall are a replica of the gates of the Chateau Grécourt.
In recent years, the lack of safety on and near the sidewalk has raised concerns. The former area was significantly narrower and did not divide the sidewalk from driveways as distinctly. Such conditions resulted in a fatality in 2005, when an armored truck turning from Elm Street into a driveway on campus hit a bicyclist.
“I’m happy they’re renovating the sidewalk,” Caroline Bishop ’16 said. “My first day on campus, the Head of New Students (HONS) tried to take us downtown to Herrell’s for ice cream, and as we were walking, I tripped on a piece of the sidewalk that was jutting out and face-planted in front of the gates.”
Accessibility on campus has been a growing concern, voiced primarily from the student body.
Over the last two years, due to student demands, more academic courses have been offered about disability. But improvements surrounding infrastructure and even the consideration of accessibility on campus in general have been slow.
The previous zone did not include an American Disabilities Act-regulated sidewalk, David Veleta, senior engineer of the Department of Public Works, said to the Hampshire Gazette.
The gates are one in a series of renovations around campus as momentum behind the new library gains speed.