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Ralston Hall closed in 2012 due to concerns about the structural integrity of the building during a large earthquake.

Background of the Ralston Hall Closure

Ralston Hall was built in 1868 and in the ensuing 140 plus years had managed to survive two major earthquakes, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. In late 2011, the university decided to retain an engineering firm to assess the condition of Ralston Hall. At the time, the mansion was being used for university administrative and faculty offices and as a venue for a variety of university events, including drama productions, concerts, recitals, guest lectures, student, faculty and staff meetings and forums. In addition, Ralston Hall was a premier wedding and reception venue and the site of corporate retreats and meetings, holiday parties and galas. It was also open to the public for tours and was often visited by architectural and engineering classes from local universities and colleges because of its enormous historical significance.

Based on its preliminary assessment, the engineering firm advised the university that it could not guarantee the safety of the building’s occupants in the event of an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. The university decided to begin moving employees out of the building as soon as possible. The process began in January 2012 and was completed in April 2012. Faculty and some administration and staff were relocated to other offices on campus and some staff were relocated to offices in the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in nearby Redwood Shores. The engineering firm then did a more thorough inspection and estimate of the extent of the repairs necessary to make the building safe again and recently delivered its report to the administration.

Cost of Repairs

The current estimate is a minimum of $12 million. The final cost could be higher depending on decisions the university makes over the next several years relating to how the building will ultimately be used.

Scope of Repairs

The scope of the work planned for Ralston Hall is significant, beginning with a replacement or retrofit, as necessary, of the entire masonry foundation. In addition, the seismic work necessary on the upper floors will be extensive and will include reroofing, removal and replacement of existing siding and localized replacement of the flooring in parts of the upper floors.

Timetable

It will be necessary to raise funds for the restoration of Ralston Hall, so there is no current estimate of how long the project will take.

Fundraising

Because of the significant cost, it will be necessary for the university to raise funds from outside sources to remodel Ralston Hall. We have already begun talking to local historical associations and other groups and foundations that we believe might have an interest in helping save the national historical landmark. In addition, we plan to reach out to many of the local individuals and civic and business groups who expressed support for Ralston Hall and offered help when it was announced the historic landmark would have to close.

 

Basement photo

Unreinforced masonry columns and piers support the floor framing. There is no observable structural system beneath bearing walls and columns.

Basement photo

In the past, local foundation repairs have been completed at select locations.

Basement photo

Evidence of masonry spalling and mortar repairs.

Ceiling damage

Cracking of interior plaster finishes likely due to settlement or seismic shaking.

Settling of building

Observable differential settlement of structure.