Top floor of Montezuma Castle renovated for classrooms

 COVID-19 prompted the continued renovation of the historic Montezuma Castle at the United World College-USA.

Not included in the castle’s $10.5 million renovation from 2000-01, the vacant third floor over the summer was remodeled for additional classrooms.

“We didn’t have the (right) size classrooms for appropriate social distancing and decided to finish four large classrooms,” said UWC-USA President Victoria J. Mora.

Most classrooms can accommodate 15 to 18 students, said Alexis Mamaux, dean of students. These classrooms were initially built for purposes other than classrooms, including hotel rooms.

“With appropriate physical distancing, we only had five classrooms that could fit more than 13 students,” she said.

The school contracted with Grimm LLC of Las Vegas, N.M., on the project. The renovation included finishing the wooden floors, painting, installing electrical service and more.

“We did a bare bones project to make sure we have adequate space,” Mora said. “It’s a beautiful space with natural light that will offer a lot of flexibility.”

The long-term plan is to use the third floor for additional dormitory space.

“The one wonderful thing is while this was a different use than what was contemplated, none of this work will be wasted,” Mora said. “It will be very easy to convert. It was a great opportunity to get folks working in the area. It was a great opportunity to make sure we were prepared for the kind of health precautions needed over the next two to three years.”

One of two Harvey Hotels in Las Vegas, the first Montezuma castle was built by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in 1882. It was rebuilt twice after fires and had multiple owners before being abandoned for decades. In 1981 the Armand Hammer Foundation purchased the 90,000-square-foot Queen Anne castle and surrounding acreage for UWC-USA. Known today as the Davis International Center, the castle houses the dining hall, dorm rooms, offices, classrooms and student center.

Last year, the school completed a $1 million bat guano remediation project of the castle. Workers removed bats and sealed the building to prevent re-entry.

“It was a big effort to remove them safely and in an environmentally responsible way,” Mora said.

A crew of 30 spent a month removing the bat guano; sanitation followed. Upon completion, the third-floor space was build-ready.

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